PATASKALA – It didn’t take long for Ellie Wright to put the magnitude of Wednesday’s girls’ soccer game into perspective.
Wright, the Liking Heights goalkeeper, finished the game with a solid save. In between, two second-period goals scored the visiting Hornets a 3-1 win at Watkins Memorial Stadium, the program’s first in the competition.
“It’s absolutely amazing. This is probably the best memory of my high school years so far,” Wright said, after a series of celebratory hugs and even some tears shed on the visitor’s sidelines.
Heights (6-1, 4-0) have lost their matches by one goal to Watkins (3-1-2, 2-1) in each of the past two seasons. This time around, the Hornets have gotten over the hump, and if everything goes well between now and then, they could play Granville for the LCL title on Oct. 5.
This is a month away. First things first when sophomore Emma French scored a breakaway goal with 14:31 left in the game, and the Hornets did it again five minutes later after Watkins cut the lead to 2-1.
“It feels great to finally get over them and work as a team,” French said. “We came off a really tough last game (5-0 against Worthington Christian). We’ve worked hard the last few days and brought that to the field.
Wright’s first save of the night came after 14 minutes on senior Watkins’ Jaylen Thornton. The game remained scoreless deep in the first half as talent battled for every possession on both sides, including Watkins freshman Kira McKittrick against Heights sophomore Evelyn Caruso, Watkins junior Zoe Thompson and Heights freshman Addison Caudill.
Watkins was awarded a corner kick 13 minutes from the end of the first half, but Heights senior Savannah Cronin headed the ball away. Then I raced 100 yards to the other end, tracked down the Frenchman’s lead pass, rounded a defender and scored from the right.
“(Lateness) is something we are not used to,” said Watkins coach Ben Shinku. “It’s hard when you have a team that’s up and has talent and athletes. You can’t dig yourself a hole.”
“Just giving (Cronin) that ball and feeling good when I put it in the back-netting was amazing,” French added.
The Highlanders led the rest of the way. Thornton and sophomore Kelly Jones-Barrera, who scored the only goal for the Warriors, kept the Hornets pressed as the Warriors hit the crossbar twice late.
But the defense of the heights was up to the task. Junior Zoe Kopinski and sophomore Elizabeth Kelly, a pair of co-captains, helped protect Wright as did seniors Cronin and Ella Arnold frequently running back from midfield.
“(The early save) motivated me a lot and helped me through the whole game,” said Wright. “The defenders surround the other players and help me a lot. It wasn’t just me who saved those goals. It was they who contributed too.
Watkins will be hoping to win at least part of the Champions League title for the third time in a row. For that to happen, the Warriors must get an assist and win the rest of their Champions League matches, including beating the Blue Aces in the season finale on October 12.
“As long as you learn, it’s okay to make mistakes,” Shinku said. “If we learn from these mistakes, it will be worth it. Hopefully, that’s where we are.”
After the match, a number of players from each team took memorial photos. The players were current and former members of the local club, PFC Extreme.
On Wednesday, it was Patascala football celebration. Heights now has a leg up for the first time.
“It means the world to them. It means the world to me to be able to send (the seniors) on with this kind of historic win,” said Heights coach Mickey Cronin. “A lot of these girls are friends too, but it’s nice to have friends on our side. bragging rights for a year. My heart is full, and I couldn’t be more proud of our girls.”
This article originally appeared on the Newark Advocate: Licking Heights gets its first win in girls’ soccer against Watkins Memorial