By Tom Usher – firstname.lastname@example.org
OTTOVILLE — It came down to which team could best survive a 30 mph wind.
Lima Central Catholic didn’t give up a goal against the wind. Then, it scored two goals with the wind.
That was the difference in LCC’s 2-0 victory over Ottoville in the Division III boys soccer sectional finals Saturday at Ottoville.
LCC (6-8-4) advances to the district semifinals against Bluffton at 7: 15 p.m. on Tuesday at Kalida. Ottoville ends its season 9-8.
LCC felt good with a 0-0 game at the half after holding Ottoville scoreless playing with the wind. It was the type of wind in which goal kicks into the wind would fall down after 20-some yards. However, goal kicks with the wind could easily carry 60 yards.
“We thought if we could hold the fort there for that first half and keep them scoreless, we would get our opportunities,” LCC coach Garry Tabler said. “We were really happy going into the second half.”
LCC broke through with its first goal with 17:25 left in the match when Jimmy Kutka made a steal just inside the 18-yard box. He chipped a shot on target for the goal and it ricocheted off the back of an Ottoville defender and ended up in the back of the net.
“He was about to clear it so I jumped out and blocked the kick,” Kutka said. “I stuck my foot out and it hit the right part. The goalie couldn’t get to it. It was just luck.”
LCC made it 2-0 on a rebound shot by Chase Little-Battle with 44 seconds to play. Little-Battle followed up on his first shot, which was dropped by the Big Green goalie. Little-Battle was playing for Joe Eisle, who was away attending afamily wedding.
In the first half, Ottoville outshot LCC with the wind, 6-3, but couldn’t get anything past T-Birds goalkeeper Kyle Smith.
“Our goal was to keep it 0-0 in the first half,” Kutka said. “Once we got to the second half, we had the wind and that was our chance to score.”
Added LCC’s Steve Taflinger, “It (the wind) was a huge difference. We played more defensive against the wind. But in the second half, we pushed up more people in the offensive side with the wind.”
Ottoville outshot LCC for the match, 11-8. Smith ended up with eight saves to post the shutout.
Smith’s biggest save came with 5:45 to go. Ottoville’s Evan Boecker lined up a shot from the top of the box and zipped it at the top of the net. But Smith somehow got one hand on the ball and deflected it. It skidded over the top of the crossbar.
Both teams had key plays by defenders.
Ottoville sweeper Rudy Wenzlick used every part of his body to stop shots. And LCC’s Jaret Brown followed Ottoville’s top offensive threat Jared Fanning all over the field and held him to four shots and no goals.
During the regular season, Ottoville edged LCC 2-1 at Ottoville.
“Nobody gave us a shot at getting to districts this year,” Tabler said. “But they took it to heart and they knew we could get there if we put in the effort and the time and we did it.”
Reach Tom Usher at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Lima_Usher