Mason players celebrate Jack Clark’s goal against Mentor during the second half of the division I soccer state finals Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. Mason beat Mentor 1-0. (Jay LaPrete/For the Enquirer)
Mason High School’s sports programs had one clear message for rivals this past season: Watch out.
The Comets dominated sports headlines in the fall, finishing the calendar year with three team state championships and one narrow second-place state championship finish
That’s not all. The Comets also celebrated several strong top ten state finishes and saw a former football star drafted in the National Football League.
Here’s a round-up of the season:
(Jay LaPrete/For the Enquirer)
The Mason boys’ soccer team was crowned Ohio Division I boys state soccer champions in November, completing an undefeated (22-0-1) season with a 1-0 victory over Mentor that had come in undefeated as well (now 18-1-4).
Senior Jack Clark– who came into the game with 30 goals for the season (and 72 in his high school career) – made his 31st the game-winner.
But many players had a hand in the victory – especially the seniors, seven of whom have played together since they were 8 year olds on the Mason Fury select team. They all started this year for Mason.
Mason is the first southwest Ohio boy’s team to win a Division I state championship since Turpin took home the title in 1986 and the first GMC team to ever win at state, school officials say.
“It’s unbelievable how many coaches wished me good luck and said, ‘Hey, bring a state title back to Cincinnati,’’’ Mason coach Paul Reedy said. ‘‘That’s a special feeling when you feel like you’re representing more than just your school, but your city as well.’’
Mason’s Kelsey Harris, left, and Walsh Jesuit’s Emily Rogers fight for a loose ball during the first half of the division I state finals Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jay LaPrete/For the Enquirer)
John Erardi reports:
Oh, the vagaries of this game.
Mason fell to Walsh Jesuit 2-0 Friday night in the girls state Division I girls soccer championship at Crew Stadium.
At times, the set pieces in a soccer match seem as positionable as troop movements in the order of battle, and at other times it’s more of a contest of unpredictable bounces, breaks and the rub of the pitch.
For the most part, the Walsh Warriors took the latter out of it, knowing Mason’s knack for turning slivers of light into goals and victories.
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Comets – but somebody forgot to tell the players. They just kept winning, until they crashed. It came hard, as one would expect from a team accustomed to coming out on top.
‘‘They (the Walsh Warriors) pressed us harder than anybody’s pressed us all year,’’ said Mason coach Andy Schur. ‘‘Until you experience that level of pressure, it takes a little while in game to adust… They put us on our back foot a lot.’’
By pressure Schur means the defense runs toward your offense, allowing no free passes, contesting everything. Strength, speed and physicality dictates it.
‘‘It makes a difference on the back end,’’ Schur said. ‘‘They can play you two against two or three against three and still give you a hard time.’’
The ball was on Mason’s defensive third quite a bit, and Walsh turned two corner kicks into goals.
Walsh’s first goal came off a corner kick with 4:39 in the first half, when Mason was unable to clear it and freshman Sofia Rosi blasted it in.
‘‘A misclearance, I had a miscommunication with one of my teammates,’’ said Mason sophomore goalkeeper Toni Bizzarro.
The second goal also came off a corner kick, this one with 10 minutes left in the game.
A Walsh player kept it alive with a slick kick backward over her head – her back was facing the goal – and then came a hard shot off the post, with sophomore Katie Quinn slamming in the carom.
‘‘Also a misclearance, another miscommunication,’’ said Bizzarro. ‘‘They had so many opportunities on that one, it was just bound to go in.’’
Mason Jill Vetere (15) celebrates with Alex Niehoff (3) after Vetere scored against Loveland goalkeeper Courtney Spicer (00) in the first half of a Division 1 semifinal soccer game at Kings High School Tuesday October 29, 2013 in Mason. Mason won 3-0. The Enquirer/ Joseph Fuqua II
John Erardi and Dan Pilar report:
Only once before had Jill Vetere made this exchange from left foot to right with multiple defenders on her and had it end in a goal.
And she’s been playing soccer for as long as she’s had a memory.
The other time it happened was in a club soccer game, so it doesn’t matter. Not when you are returning to the state high school tournament in Columbus next week, which is the best thing a young athlete can do.
The Mason girls’ 1-0 victory over St. Ursula Saturday afternoon in the regional final at Lakota East High School was as interesting and entertaining of a high school game as one will ever see in any sport because of the way emotion flipped on a dime and the game with it.
“One of our girls said it last year in the state championship game (when Mason outshot its opponent a zillion to one and still lost): ‘Soccer is a dumb game,’ ’’ said Mason coach Andy Schur.
‘‘I’m sure Ursula is going to be thinking that for the next couple of weeks. It’s a brutal sport. The game can be stolen from you in a heartbeat (by one goal). It’s a hard way to lose a game.’’
The winning sequence came with 3:16 left to play, and began with a throw-in from Mason junior defender Danielle Meyer that went to junior forward Rachel Holloway. With her back to the goal, it appeared as though she might do a 180 and try to flip in it. Instead, she redirected to junior Vetere.
It is amazing how much information the brain can process in a split second.
As soon as Vetere saw the three Ursula defenders on her left foot, she decided to switch it to her right – even though she might have had a chance to make the goal with her left – she immediately thought she had done one thing too many.
“So I just whipped it hard as I could and it got through the gap and went in,’’ said Vetere, grinning.
The ball slipped into goal the only place it could, to the keeper’s right.
‘‘She (sophomore Olivia Silverman) is such a great keeper,’’ Vetere said. ‘‘I was fortunate. I felt a great weight lift off my shoulders. But I also knew I don’t get that chance without (Meyer and Holloway).’’
Mason’s Alex’s Niehoff (3), left celebrates with her teammates after scoring in the second half.
John Erardi reports:
It is called ‘‘the beautiful game’’ for a reason.
The Mason girls showed why in a 3-0 victory over Loveland Tuesday night in a ‘‘road to state’’ game at Kings High School.
So much of this spirited game was about the passing.
The three assists were, in order, from senior forward captain Alex Niehoff, junior midfielder Jill Vetere and senior forward Taylor Sheppard.
The three goals were scored, in order, by Vetere, senior forward Chloe Knue and Niehoff.
To appreciate what went into the plays, one must hear from the principals.
Goal 1 (Late in the first half) –
The feed was over the top of two defenders, and dropped directly in front of Vetere.
Niehoff: ‘‘In that situation, I’m just trying to get it to a forward, because I know they’re always up there making runs. I knew one of them would get on it. Jill really made a great run there. ‘’
The goal, Vetere: ‘‘I saw Alex with the ball, and I just started screaming for it. I knew she was going to get it to me. There was a girl on my left, and I was able to take the ball off my head, and cut the girl off and finish it with my right. Spot-on feed, setting it all up. Great ball by Alex.’’
Why it was so big, Vetere: ‘‘0-0. You never know if you’re going to have one opportunity or 10. You have to make the most of it.’’
Crossbars and posts can be a goalie’s best friend. If not for those, the Mason Comets appeared primed to win the Ohio State Girls Division I State Soccer Championship here Friday night.
Instead, they lost to Perrysburg 1-0, in the wildest, craziest, keep-coming-at-you state championship soccer game Columbus has seen in a long while.
“Only nine saves?” somebody in the press box asked afterward. “It seems like she made nine hundred.”
The reference was to Penn State-bound senior goalie Chloe Buehler, who had her hands full –literally.
What she couldn’t pick off, the posts and crossbars did.
There were two such occurrences in the first half, two more in the second.
“They (the Comets) had two or three opportunities that I thought for sure were going to end up in the net,” said Perrysburg coach Jorge Diaz, whose team finished 23-0-0, ranked first in the state and second nationally. “A hand here, a crossbar there. Luck was with us.”
Diaz singled out Mason’s “Number 8″ and “Number 15,” as being particularly hard to stop, and said nobody came at his team all year the way Mason did.
“Overall, they had a tougher bracket to get here than we did, although the last couple of games – Strongsville and Medina – were tough for us,” Diaz said.
No. 8, that would be Jami Pfeifer, a senior forward.
“Give her an inch, and she’s going to take it all the way through,” Diaz said.
No. 15, that would be Jill Vetere, a sophomore forward.
“I had somebody on her the second half, but the coach was moving her from one side to the other, attacking,” Diaz said.
The Mason girls knew they were going to have their hands (and feet and heads and minds) full with Perrysburg’s Maddy Williams.
And, did they ever.
To their credit, they largely negated her except for the successful first-half penalty kick with 15 minutes to go in the first half that was the difference.
Who can blame the Comets for having fouled her? At the time, she was engaged in a whirling dervish extravaganza in front of the goal, in which the Comets did everything to dislodge the ball from her. Finally, wham!.
The feeling one had was at that very instant was that Williams was going to score unless somebody fouled her.
“My attitude is you have to finish your chances, because you never know if that might be the only one you get,” Williams said.
And so, they fouled her, and she scored, anyway.
It was her 48th goal of the season.
“I liked her attitude inside the 18,” Mason coach Andy Schur said. “She was so persistent. You maybe could knock her off the ball, but she was right back on top of you. And with her back to the goal, really tough to defend.”
Williams, too, agreed, that it was the Yellow Jackets night.
“We had luck on our side,” she said. “They (the Comets) have a really well-organized back line. They play great together. They’re physical, but not to the point it gets out of control.”
Other than that one goal Friday night, these were two very evenly matched teams at Crew Stadium. Mason was more the aggressor: 26 shots to Perrysburg’s 6; 9 shot to 5 on goal, respectively.
“The best team we’ve played,” Perrysburg’s Diaz said.
Mason beat three of the top 11 teams in the state to reach the state final, and finished 20-2-1.
Senior forward Jami Pfeifer scored one minute, 36 seconds into the first sudden victory overtime period Tuesday night to give Mason a 1-0 win against Pickerington North at Miami Valley South Stadium and send the Comets to the Division I state soccer finals for the first time in school history.
Pfeifer scored her 18th goal of the season with a blast from the right side about 15 yards away from the goal. The ball got past Pickerington North goalie Heather Laeufer in an instant and handed the Panthers (19-1-2) their first loss of the season.
“I was getting stormed by my team and the ball was in the net,” said Pfeifer. “I saw the ball go in, then my mind went blank and I just fell to the ground.
“I wasn’t sure where it was going. I was in the moment and it’s one of those things where you don’t know how it happens, it just happens.”
Mason will take its 20-1-1 records into Friday’s 7 p.m. state championship game at Columbus Crew Stadium against No. 1-ranked Perrysburg (22-0). The Comets were unranked in the final state coaches’ poll but in this tournament they have now beaten three ranked teams (No. 11 Troy, No. 7 Centerville, No. 5 Pickerington North) and avenged their lone loss of the season against Ursuline in the regional final.
Mason was making its first appearance in the state semifinals while Pickerington North was in its third state tournament. The Panthers were state runners-up in 2010.
Pickerington North had beaten No. 2 Dublin Coffman and No. 8 Dublin Jerome 1-0 each in its regional tournament. The regional final against Jerome went to two overtimes.
Mason scored two quick goals and then maintained ball possession and offensive pressure throughout in a 3-0 victory against Mercy Tuesday night in a Division I girls’ soccer sectional final at Winton Woods.
Junior Alex Niehoff and sophomore Jill Vetere scored 28 seconds apart from each other in the opening three minutes of the game to set the tone of the match. Freshman goalie Toni Bizzarro made eight saves as Mason recorded its 12th shutout of the season and advanced to a district championship match against Troy Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lakota East.
Troy beat Springboro 1-0 in overtime Tuesday night.
The Comets, ranked No. 1 in the final Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll and No. 1 seed in the Cincinnati sectional, are now 16-1-1. Mercy, the No. 9 seed, ends its season at 10-4-4.
“Those goals were huge. I always think when you’re the quote-unquote favorite in a game like this the weight of the world comes off of you when you score early,” said Mason coach Andy Schur. “We played relaxed the rest of the time. You can get a little tight in games like this and I was proud of how we reacted in not giving up a ton of chances. We stayed sound defensively and didn’t let them come back from 2-0. That can change quickly.”