The Elks took a 1-0 lead about midway through the first half when junior Hailey Jeng crossed the ball from the left corner. The ball ricocheted off several players from both teams before finding Laidly and the back of the net, giving the Elks a 1-0 advantage at the half.
“We got the first goal and we had some momentum, but then certainly in the first half we started to panic and let it slip away,” Gobrail said. “We never really quite settled into our style of play. You could see we were playing a bit frenzied there. We kept playing their game and never quite got to dictate the pace that we wanted. That’s what a good team does, they can control the game like that.”
Elks goalkeeper junior Allison Copoly made several key saves in the first half to keep her team in the match, despite a leg injury.
“She’s been pretty banged up,” Gobrail said. “The fact that she finished the game is impressive.”
The second half belonged to the Braves. Austin scored two goals in the first 14 minutes of the second half to give her team a lead it would never relinquish.
The Elks threatened several times, but weren’t able to tie the score. With about 14 minutes remaining, Olentangy took a 3-1 lead when White’s free kick was saved by Copoly, but fell to the feet of Heskett who put it in the back of the net.
A minute later, White scored to send the Braves to their first state final in school history.
Centerville was playing in its 10th state semifinal in school history and its first since 2011.
“This is an amazing group of kids,” Gobrail said. “We kept telling them how special this is. … This is one of the best teams in terms of how they work together. They’re incredibly talented and they all know how to contribute. That’s what made this team so much fun, seeing different people step up on different nights and everyone plays a role and everyone contributes.”
The Elks will graduate nine seniors who guided the program back to the state tournament for the first time in nearly a decade. Gobrail took a moment to speak with each senior after the loss.
“We’re going to miss them tremendously,” he said. “They’ve been great with the program these last four years.”
The players were grateful for a chance to play for a state final, Gobrail said. They realize things could’ve been different, he said.
“We didn’t think we were going to have a season,” Gobrail said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to compete and work as a group throughout the year.”