COLUMBUS – With six minutes to play in regulation and her team tied 1-1 in Saturday's Division I soccer final at Crew Stadium, St. Ursula Academy's Tori Huster found the ball at her feet about 35 or so yards from goal, just in front of the Bulldog bench.
Was she too far from net to attempt a shot? Not so, said a voice from the sidelines.
“Someone, it may even have been me,” St. Ursula coach Dave Ruehl said, “yelled that she should give it a go.”
Give it a go Huster did. The captain's wondersrike with 5:57 on the clock beat Strongsville's keeper (and the goal line) by a matter of inches, helping St. Ursula to a 2-1 victory and the program's third state title.
“It's just a really special feeling,” said Huster, whose 30-yard boot earlier in the half set-up the equalizer.
The win ended a 14-year championship drought for St. Ursula (20-1-2), which had been runner twice since 2002. Strongsville, ranking No. 1 in the state
coming into the match, ends its season with a mark of 18-1-4.
Huster caused Strongsville keeper Rachel Wood trouble all night with rips from her right foot, but she saved the best for last.
Without a great deal of run-up, Huster's drive sailed up and over Wood, who was caught off her line. The keeper reached up at the last minute to deflect
the ball with her hand, sending it into the bottom of the crossbar and straight down to the pitch.
Though the margin was narrow, video replay seemed to confirm that the ball landed just behind white stripe indicating the front of the goal mouth.
“I found myself alone and I figured I might as well take the shot,” said Huster. “I guess it's a good thing I did.”
Strongsville protested the ruling, but the referee was immediate in his ruling. Mustangs head coach Jon Felton said he didn't think it mattered.
“It was a heck of a shot, either way,” Felton said. “The better team won today, they mixed it up better than we did.”
Alexandra Berry cleaned up a rebound produced by Huster's early shot attempt, leveling the game at 1-1 less seven minutes in the second half.
The 2005 champs took the lead on a penalty, Kerri Krawczak converting from the spot at 2:32 of the first after a hand ball was rightly spotted in the St.
Ursula penalty area.
Despite the deficit, St. Ursula said it was sure of itself coming out of the locker room.
“We thought it we could just get a goal early in the half it would give us momentum to then get a second one,” said Ruehl, the Bulldogs' first-year
boss. “That's exactly what happened.”
Ruehl pointed out that his team had been shut out only once this season.
“One goal isn't going to beat us,” he said. “We feel like if we're playing well nobody is going to dominate us.”
Saturday's win represented St. Ursula's first state title since 1993. The Bulldogs had been runners-up '02 and '05, both times losing to
Strongsville. It was a fact not lost on the St. Ursula players.
“That meant a lot,” Huster said of the rivalry. “This was more than just a state championship for us.”