BEAVERCREEK – The unbeaten Oakwood boys soccer team achieved something for the first time Wednesday night that, before the season began, they didn’t see coming.
The Lumberjacks defeated Southwestern Buckeye League rival Bellbrook 3-0 to reach the Division II regional finals for the first time. Oakwood (20-0) will face Cincinnati Wyoming, a 5-0 winner over Columbus Bishop Hartley, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Beavercreek High School.
“If you were to ask me last year if we were going to do this, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” said senior forward John Ruetschle. “But so many people have stepped up this year from JV to varsity, from bench players last year coming in and doing what they have to do.”
Last year’s team lost to Tippecanoe in the district final and lost a lot of seniors. This year seven of the 10 seniors start.
“They put it together,” first-year coach Eric Kissenger said. “They had the right attitude, they had the right spirit and they’re just making sure everyone’s on the same page.”
One of the seniors, defender Charlie Boucuvalas, started as a sophomore but lost his starting spot last year. He got his job back when Kissenger arrived and loves his team’s chemistry.
“I thought we were going to have a year full of struggle and not enough guys that can play top-tier soccer, but we’ve got a full 11 guys that have stepped up,” Boucuvalas said. “It feels amazing. We feel unstoppable.”
The Lumberjacks played that way Wednesday. They beat Bellbrook for the third time, taking over in the middle of the first after the Eagles had controlled play early but didn’t score.
“It’s incredible and to do it the way we did just now – just total domination,” Ruetschle said. “Just knowing we made school history against our rival in the tournament, there’s nothing like it.”
Ruetschle, the Lumberjacks’ leading scorer this season, scored with 13:38 left in the first half out of a crowd near the net. Sophomore Colin MacDonald made it 2-0 at 37:28 of the second half on a shot from 25-30 yards out.
“What a bash that was,” Kissenger said. “That’s one of those no, no, no … yes shots. I was thinking make the pass to John (Ruetschle) and he ripped that shot and it was perfect.”
MacDonald said he had never made a goal like and that it was one to remember.
“I was one on one with one of their weaker defenders, so I decided to beat him,” MacDonald said. “And then it was just open road from there, and it just soared in.”
Ruetschle scored his 29th goal with 16:49 left after the Eagles couldn’t clear the ball back to their end of the field.
“They’ve been perfect up to this point,” Bellbrook coach Michael Crane said. “I’m not saying we needed to play a perfect game but near close to it.”
Oakwood’s defense never let up and has yet to allow a goal in their four tournament games and only five all season.
“It’s always tough beating a team three times and we knew that coming in. We knew that Trace (Terry) was their man to stop, and he made us work hard for it,” Kissenger said of the SWBL’s leading scorer. “Our back line stayed disciplined, and our attack did their job.”
Crane, in his third year as coach, touted his team’s senior leadership this season. He had a long and emotional postgame talk with his team, which says goodbye to eight seniors.
“This is the first time I felt we had a team that emulated a team, and that’s what made it so difficult,” Crane said. “We had a great senior class that invested countless hours in the program and into themselves. To see their careers in high school come to a close is tough.”
Centerville topped Anderson 3-2 in a Division I regional semifinal on Wednesday night.
The Elks will face St. Xavier, a 2-1 winner over Mason, in Saturday’s regional final.
In Division III, Bethel dropped a 2-0 decision to Madeira in a regional semi Wednesday.
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