The goal set the tone for the rest of the game, Connelly said.
“As soon as we scored that first goal, it felt like we had the momentum the whole game,” he said. “We never let up. I think we really kept up that pressure and that intensity. It put us on the right foot. Margie’s goal in the second half did the same thing, really helped us put the game away. I’m just really proud of all of the girls collectively. The goals are a result of how we work together as a team.”
Oakwood dominated much of the second half, but finally broke through Hartley’s defense with about 10 minutes remaining when Conrath found the back of the net.
Oakwood is now three wins from a state championship. A year ago, Oakwood lost to Alter in the regional semifinals and graduated a large senior class.
“It means so much,” Conrath said. “We lost nine seniors last year. We didn’t have that many people believing in us this year, so it feels good to show’em up. ...I’m really proud of how far we’ve come as a team. I couldn’t ask for better teammates and friends.”
“In my opinion, when it comes to these playoff games, it’s about heart,” Connelly said. “You can talk tactics and I think that’s part of why we won tonight, but it’s about the girls winning every 50/50 chance, fighting and scraping for every ball. I think they do that well and that’s what’s gotten us this far.”
On Oct. 1, Oakwood lost to Bellbrook 2-0, falling to 4-4-2 overall. Since that loss, Oakwood is 8-0-1, winning seven straight matches, including upsets over state-ranked Alter and Tippecanoe. The Lumberjills have allowed just one goal during the unbeaten streak and have notched three straight shutouts.
“All of our back line, all of our subs are just very organized,” Connelly said. “They’ve very strong, confident and push each other well. They’re all in sync. As a coach, I couldn’t ask for anything else from my backline. It goes from the back line all the way up to the forwards. We play very well together in our shape and in our formation.”
They’ll see a familiar oppponent in the regional final. Oakwood will travel to Southwestern Buckeye League rival Monroe for a D-II regional final match at noon Saturday. The Hornets beat Hamilton Badin 1-0 in the other regional semifinal match.
Oakwood lost to Monroe 4-0 in both of their meetings this season. The winner will advance to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“We struggled against them in the regular season,” Connelly said. “We’re very excited about a third chance. We’ll be excited for that game, for sure.”
** Centerville beat Mason 2-1 in overtime Tuesday in a Division I regional semifinal at Centerville.
The Elks (18-1-1) advance to face Lakota West, the defending state champions, at noon Saturday in the regional finals at Lakota West. The Firebirds beat top-ranked Mount Notre Dame 3-2 on Tuesday.
** Top-ranked Waynesville was ousted by Cincinnati Country Day 3-1 in a Division III regional semifinal. The Spartans finished 18-1-0.