COLUMBUS — With just 13 seconds left in the Division I state championship match, Lakota West found their winner through number 13 Kailyn Dudukovich. The prevalent goalscorer bagged her fiftieth goal on the season at possibly the best time, scoring with the amount of seconds left that her jersey displays. And with that goal, the Firebirds managed to edge out the Anthony Wayne Generals 2-1 to capture the state title at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus to bring back home to West Chester.
It had been twenty years since the Firebirds last won a state title in girls soccer. Firebirds head coach Brigit Reder had made an emphasis on the mission to finish the season hoisting the championship trophy at the alumni game back in preseason. That mission has now come to a successful finish.
“Tonight is going to be about taking that in and cherishing this moment,” said Reder. “We had so many alumni come back tonight. It’s cool to see the community support…it’s been such a blessing.”
The game proved to be evenly matched from the start, a proper judgement considering neither the Firebirds or Generals had lost a game all season. Despite a few early chances, including a long range effort by Jenna Sitarski, the Generals managed to clear the trouble.
Maddie Prohaska was then forced into a tough save, as a General had a glancing header on frame, but the Firebird goalkeeper managed to prevent it from finding the back of the net.
Just a few moments after Prohaska’s big save on one end, the Firebirds took the lead on the other. Gracie West crossed a beautiful ball in towards Dudukovich at the back post. The Firebird goalscorer managed to supply a finesse shot, allowing her leg to rise and hit it with the inside of her foot. This gently lifted the ball over the Generals goalkeeper Keaton Grabarczyk and saw it loft into the upper ninety of the goal to give Lakota West the opener.
“I saw the opportunity and I made the most of it,” said Dudukovich.
Just seventeen minutes in, Lakota West now held the 1-0 advantage. After Dudukovich forced a save out of the Generals keeper the Generals had an opportunity on their own.
Dangerous crosses put the Firebird defense and Prohaska under pressure, but despite the frantic moments, Lakota West managed to clear the ball to safety.
After another barrage of shots by Lakota West, Anthony Wayne held firm and the score would remain 1-0 at the half in favor of the Firebirds.
The second half began with Anthony Wayne gathering more possession and it accumulated into a good shot that forced Prohaska to make a diving save.
Lakota West managed another few chances, but on the other end of the field it was the Generals who found their equalizer.
A weird transition allowed Anthony Wayne’s Hannah Rybicki to travel in open space, forcing the defense into retreating instead of committing to pressure the forward. The gamble did not pay off for the Firebirds, as Rybicki decided not to pass, but rather go for goal. Her shot was a beauty, rising and finding the net in a spot that Prohaska had no chance on. Anthony Wayne had now evened the game at one just inside the second half.
But the ability to battle back from their opponent’s equalizers wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Lakota West, who found the go-ahead winner over Dublin Coffman in shorter time after the Shamrocks had tied the game in the state semifinal on Tuesday.
“Dublin Coffman was a great game for us to learn from,” said Reder. “We knew (Anthony Wayne) was a quality team. If we go up and they equalize, (it’s about) keeping composure. We’ve done it before. It’s that battle back mentality.”
And keep their composure, the Firebirds did.
The Generals began to control a bit more possession, but the Firebirds thwarted any true danger for the majority of the second half. With just under ten minutes, Anthony Wayne put up a shot from a difficult angle, to which the ball barely missed the back post.
However, that was the end of the Generals best attack in the final third and the Firebirds began to send more numbers forward to find the winner. With under five minutes left, everyone in the stadium had the sense that the next goal would likely be the deciding tally for the state championship.
“(I was) going to start planning for overtime,” said Reder admitted. However, what she saw on the field changed her thoughts. “When we saw Kailyn and our forwards and our attacking midfielders hit that second gear with a minute thirty left…don’t hold your breath because it’s going to come.”
Then, with just 13 seconds left in the match, it happened.
Dudukovich attempted to move past a General defender near the top of the eighteen, but the defender managed to get a touch on the ball, deflecting it out towards the sideline. Amanda Beerens chased down the loose ball and stepped inside to give her the right angle to play a spectacular through ball past her defender.
As the ball rolled through with pace, a General defender stabbed at it, just missing a touch. Another General defender urgently moved forward to clear it, but she was a step too late and Dudukovich collected it with a marvelous first touch to place her past that defender and into space in front of the goal. Grabarczyk came out in hopes of the last moment save, but Dudukovich calmly picked her spot to score the biggest goal of the season. It was the winner at the death of the match, as number 13 scored with 13 seconds left to win the state championship for Lakota West.
“I was prepared for it,” said Dudukovich on her last gasp winning goal. “I knew Amanda (Beerens) would hit that great ball across.”
“Kailyn tracked back and she won the ball,” said Reder on how she saw the winner from the bench. “We had our flanks up with her to support. She beat one, she beat two…goalkeeper comes out…game over.”
Lakota West winning the state championship caps off a remarkable season that now sees the Firebirds lift the trophy for Division I. The Firebirds also completed the sweep for the Southwest regional teams in girls soccer to win the state title, as Archbishop Alter defeated Madison Comp and Cincinnati Country Day beat Liberty-Benton in Divisions II and III, respectively.
The Lakota West Firebirds finish the season undefeated and are now taking the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I soccer state trophy back to West Chester to place next to one that was won twenty years ago.
The Firebirds certainly left it late, but in the end they are victorious in their quest for the 2019 state championship.
All of us here at Chatterbox want to congratulate the Lakota West Firebirds on their amazing season and state championship! It has been a pleasure to provide dedicated coverage on the Firebirds all season long!