PHILO - The Beavers are going for gold.
The Beaver Local girls' soccer team is looking to take the next step today as the Beavers play in an Ohio Division II Eastern District Co-Final at 5:30 p.m. at Philo High School against Dover.
The Beavers enter tonight's game against the Tornadoes with a record of 4-14.
Beaver Local’s Caylee Cunningham dribbles the ball down the field as Edison’s Kylie Long defends Saturday at Red Devil Stadium in?St. Clairsville. Also pictured are Beaver Local’s Heather Swickard (8), Kylie Severs (2) and Haley Tomlinson (5) along with Edison’s Bethanie Bube. (Photo by Aaron?Petchal)
Beaver Local advanced to the district co-final by defeating Steubenville, 2-0, in the sectional semifinals last Wednesday night, and Edison, 1-1, (2-1 in a shootout) Saturday afternoon down at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville.
"It was a great accomplishment considering the year that we have had," Beaver Local head coach Liz Connor said about winning the sectional championship. "We were able to get over some obstacles this year, and we have come together as a team now in the postseason.
Beaver Local first win of the season came Sept. 29 at home on Senior Night against local-rival East Liverpool.
"We talked throughout the entire season that our goal was to get back to where we were last year," Connor said. "We are going for the gold this season."
Last year, Beaver Local blanked Indian Creek, 8-0, in the sectional semifinals before defeating Minerva, 6-1, in the sectional co-final at Red Devil Stadium.
Beaver Local met Edison in the district final. The game was scoreless through regulation. Then in the first overtime period, Edison's Kayla Prokopakis scored to give the Wildcats a 1-0 victory and the district title.
Edison went on to defeat West Holmes in a shootout in the Region 7 Semifinals at Zanesville High School before falling to Columbus St. Francis DeSales, 7-0, in the regional final. The Stallions went on to capture the Division II state title.
Since Saturday's victory over the Wildcats, the Beavers have been able to get in a couple good days of practice.
"Yeah, we have had two days of practice," Connor said. "We have focused on technical skill and keeping possession of the ball."
Dover advanced to the district co-final by defeating River View, 1-0, in the sectional semifinals last Wednesday, and by defeating New Philadelphia, 3-1, in the sectional co-final Saturday. The Tornadoes played both of their playoff games at Philo.
"We talked to the girls about changing their mindset," Connor said. "We will be playing on grass instead of turf. Grass is what we practice on. We are used to it. We have been playing on it all season."
The Beavers spent the last couple of days focusing more on themselves than on the Tornadoes.
"At this point of the year, we are focused on continuing to play our style of play and to no get sucked in to how the other team likes to play," Connor said. "Against Steubenville, they like to play long ball, we had to keep playing our style. We wanted to keep possession of the ball. With Edison, we knew they were going to be a rough group. We just needed to keep our heads and to continue to play the style we have played for the last few games."
The Tornadoes are a strong team.
"Dover is a physical team that has good technical skill," Connor said.
Many of the players on this year's roster for Beaver Local played against Edison in last year's district co-final.
"We have nine returners from that team," Connor said.
The players and coaches will be dealing with some nervousness heading into the game today.
"I always get nervous," Connor said. "I feel butterflies. I think that is a good thing if you are able to use it in a positive way."
Beaver Local has managed to stay mostly healthy through 18 games so far this season.
"we have had some bumps and bruises, but for the most part everyone has been healthy," Connor said.
The Beavers routine is going to be changed today.
"I think one of the main challenges is to keep the girls focusing on the game," Connor said. "The girls are getting out of school early. We are taking a charter bus. It is a longer drive than what we are used to. It is going to be close to a three-hour drive. We have to keep them focused with the game with everything else going on."
The winner of the district co-final will advance to the Region 7 Semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Zanesville.
Today is a big day overall for the Beaver Local soccer programs. Both of the Beavers' teams will be playing in a district co-final. The Beaver Local boys are scheduled to play against Dover at 7 p.m. at River View High School.
"It is a great opportunity," Connor said. "I know some of the parents are upset that they won't be able to see both games.
"It is a great accomplishment. It shows Beaver Local soccer is starting a tradition that hopefully continues for a long time."