COLUMBUS – To get a sense of how dominant Hathaway Brown’s duo of midfielder Alex Dayneka and forward Lani Brown were in Saturday’s Division II girls soccer final at Crew Stadium you needed only ask the opposing coach.
“(Nos.) 11 and 12, 11 and 12,” Badin coach Keith Harring said, repeating Dayneka and Smith’s jersey numbers in awe. “They were the game.”
Smith finished with a goal and an assist and Dayneka helped control the midfield as the Blazers (20-3-1) beat Hamilton Badin 2-0 to capture the second state title in the program’s eight-year history.
“We’re a small school from the northeast,” Hathaway Brown coach Dennis Weyn said. “It’s hard for us to get through our area. But once we do get out we usually do pretty well.”
The Shaker Heights-based Blazers very nearly ran Badin (17-6-1) off the field in the first half. Hathaway Brown created several quality chances, hitting the woodwork on two separate occasions.
Smith’s handiwork midway though the opening half would ultimately prove plenty for the Hathaway Brown.
The sophomore received the ball in the middle of Badin’s half of the field and proceeded to slip past two of three defenders that immediately surrounded her. With one defender to beat, Smith deftly found Merrill Bachouros on her right, wide open in front of Badin keeper Megan Woodrey.
Bachouros beat Woodrey low to the far left post from 12 yards out, giving the Blazers the lead with 22:38 to play in the half.
“I knew I couldn’t take the shot, so I passed it over to Merrill,” Smith said afterwards.
Badin seemed as if it made adjustments at the break, and appeared far more organized in the back over the second 40 minutes. Once again though, an individual effort from Smith was too much for the Rams. With just under 12 minutes to play Smith stole ball from a Badin defender on the left side of the field, cutting back to the middle and beating a helpless Woodrey from point-blank range.
“They were the two best players we faced this year,” Harring said. “They got us back on our heels and prevented us from stepping forward like we normally do.”
Badin put on a rush in the game’s final few minutes, setting up a couple of dangerous situations but never mounting a truly quality opportunity.
Hathaway Brown has been one of the state’s most dangerous offensive teams this season, so the players were particularly happy with how its defense played in Saturday’s final.
“The defense really came through,” said Dayneka, an all-Ohio selection this season. “We knew they would have to step-up for us and stay on their marks.”
The title was the second in four seasons for Hathaway Brown, which beat Indian Hill in 2004.
What should be disturbing for the rest of D-II soccer in Ohio is the fact that all but two members of Hathaway Brown’s roster return next season.
“It’s going to be great,” Dayneka said. “We could be even stronger next year.”