Ella Bianco didn’t want to let go of the state championship trophy. She emerged from the group of Beavercreek players celebrating with students at MAPFRE Stadium with the hardware in her hands.
“That’s a big trophy,” one fan told her.
It was indeed the biggest trophy a team can win in high school girls soccer. If the Ohio High School Athletic Association had larger trophies for teams as dominant as Beavercreek was in 2018, they would have handed that to coach Steve Popp and his players. The standard trophy will do for now.
» PHOTO GALLERY: 24 photos for 24 wins
Beavercreek capped a 24-0 season with a 4-2 victory against Strongsville in the Division I final Friday.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” said Bianco, a senior captain. “It’s so crazy to think of where we started and where we ended, from the beginning of August to now.”
“It’s great to win the state title tonight,” said Popp, a Carroll High School and University of Dayton graduate who’s 292-62-41 in 20 seasons at Beavercreek. “It’s an awesome group of kids. They worked hard all year long. To go 24-0 is almost unheard of anymore. The team did great. The fan support was unreal. We’re just extremely happy about what we were able to do.”
Beavercreek became the third girls soccer team in OHSAA history to finish a season 24-0. It tied the state record with 19 shutouts. It had 14 shutouts in a row at one point, the second-longest streak in state history. It scored 140 goals, the second most in state history behind the 2000 Findlay team that totalled 199.
» EARLIER COVERAGE: Beavercreek beats Watterson in semifinals
In the state final, Beavercreek was as dominant as it has been all season. The Beavers blanked the Mustangs 4-0 in the first half.
Marcella Cash, who scored two goals in a 2-1 victory against Columbus Bishop Watterson in the semifinals, scored at the 13:16 mark. It was her 38th goal of the season.
Bianco drilled a free kick into the top corner at the 26:40 mark. She was asked after the game if that was the favorite goal of her career.
“That’s got to be the one,” Bianco said. “I’d definitely say that’s my favorite one, especially in the state finals. It was amazing.”
» FOOTBALL: Second-round playoff scores
Bianco didn’t have to wait long for another chance to score. She headed in a corner kick from Kaileigh Nuessgen at the 30:43 mark. Then with 41 seconds left in the half, Diana Benigno scored off an assist by Cash to give Beavercreek a 4-0 halftime lead.
Strongsville (19-1-3), which created headlines in the semifinals by playing a stretch of the game with 12 players on the field and not being penalized, mounted a late comeback in the second half, but for the most part, this game was won in the first half.
“I thought we came out really strong,” Popp said. “We had good pace. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities, but we were able to capitalize on some really good plays on goal and knocked some in. In a big game like this, if you can get a lead, it certainly puts you in a much better position.”
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