Undefeated and the then-defending Division II girls soccer state champion, Alter’s early exit from last year’s postseason was vexing. The Knights fell 2-1 to Tippecanoe in the district final.
“Losing last year was certainly unexpected in the sense that we had a really solid team that came up short,” Alter head coach Javier Iriart said. “The mission from the minute that game was over was set for this group. They’ve done a great job of sticking to their promise of not letting that kind of result happen again.”
»RELATED: Tuesday’s high school scoreboard
Alter stayed the course Wednesday with a 3-1 win over Bellbrook in a D-II regional semifinal at Miamisburg High School.
The Knights (16-2-2) earned a rematch with Indian Hill in the regional final Saturday at noon at Lebanon Junior High School. Alter lost 1-0 to the Braves on Aug. 21.
Bellbrook (14-5-2) fell for the third straight season in the state’s Sweet 16. The Eagles lost to Alter 3-0 in September.
“I told the girls we’re on this regional semifinal plateau that we need to get off of,” Bellbrook head coach Zach Huffman said. “But there are 200 other teams in the state that would like to be where we’re at. I don’t how many teams in Ohio have won three straight district titles, but it’s not many.”
Alter dominated the first 10 minutes of each half.
The Knights scored less then eight minutes in off a goal by Nicoletta Anuci. Up 1-0 at half, Alter tacked on two more goals in the first three minutes of the second half. Grace Haines connected at the 38:21 mark, while Anna Sweeney answered with 37:15 to go.
“When (our forwards) play as aggressive as they do upfront it makes teams take a step back,” Iriart said. “Having them firing on all cylinders – like tonight – set the tone.”
Said Huffman: “Giving up a goal early on and then two goals real early in the second half makes it hard to stay in the game, but our girls did. We got one back, but it wasn’t enough.”
Bellbrook scored with 13:56 to play when Sydney Hollingsworth hit home an assist from Bailey Sedlak.
The goal was just the 12th Alter has allowed in 20 games. The Knights own 12 shutouts.
“They are definitely the unsung heroes,” Iriart said of his defense. “We have some really good leadership and experience in the back. The forwards get the glory, but we wouldn’t be where we’re at without the strength of that defensive unit.”
“They have a great defensive team and a couple really good offensive players that you have to pay attention too,” Huffman said. “It’s a tall order.”
The win was Alter’s 47th in three years.
Bellbrook, which owns 44 wins the last three years, had allowed just one goal in its three previous tournament games (wins over Fenwick, Chaminade Julienne and Wyoming).
The Eagles lose nine seniors, but return a solid core led by the team’s top three scorers and the SWBL Southwestern Division Player of the Year (Sedlak).
“Bellbrook has never been to a state championship game in girls soccer and that’s our goal,” Huffman said. “You have to do things to get there and one is winning a district championship. Another is winning a regional semifinal. We know the later you get in the tournament the teams are tough.
“We just have to get over the hump.”
Beavercreek 2, Mount Notre Dame 0: The Beavers advance to face Mason in the D-I regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Monroe High School.
Lehman Catholic 3, Cin. Madeira 1: The Cavaliers advance to face Cincinnati Contry Day in the D-III regional final at noon Saturday at Xenia High School.