Fairfield High School’s girls soccer team was in the Greater Miami Conference driver’s seat going into the Indians’ title-deciding match with Mason on Thursday night.
Fairfield was 7-0-1 in the conference while the Comets were 6-0-2, meaning the Indians needed only a tie to clinch their seventh outright GMC title and first since 2011, while Mason needed a win to grab its first outright title since 2014 and sixth since joining the conference in 2007.
Fairfield also was celebrating Senior Night in the regular-season finale, but it was the nine-deep junior class that got it done. Striker Jaden Leist scored the go-ahead goal in the 40th minute and defender/midfielder Isabelle Wissel made a sliding kick save in front of Fairfield’s open goal in the 44th minute to preserve the lead, and the Indians hung on for a 2-1 win.
“This is unbelievable,” Fairfield coach Patrick O’Leary said while watching his team greet fans, dance and parade around the sideline with a banner proclaiming its 2017 championship. “We’ve been preparing the whole season for this. There are so many talented teams in the GMC that it’s a real grind. It took a lot of work and a lot of effort. We might be the smallest team in the GMC, but we’re also the angriest.”
Their celebration was enhanced shortly after the final buzzer when it was announced that Fairfield’s boys team had clinched its GMC championship with a 1-0 win at Mason.
Junior midfielder Alexis Goins scored in the sixth minute, a goal offset in the 35th minute by Mason junior midfielder Olivia Polnow, but Fairfield’s swarming defense helped keep the Comets bottled up for most of the match.
“We’re pretty quick,” O’Leary said. “We had a walk-through yesterday. I’ve watched Mason twice, and they like to go through (senior forward Annie Metzger). We felt like if we could score one or two goals, we could sit back and bunker in.”
Mason coach Andy Schur agreed with the contention that Fairfield sometimes seemed to have 15 girls on the field.
“We had a really hard time finding space,” said Schur, whose team is seeded second in the upcoming Division I sectional tournament. “We improved in the second half in finding space, but they put a lot of pressure on us.”
Fairfield is seeded fourth. The two teams, who shared the 2013 GMC crown, could meet again in a regional final.
The Indians lost senior striker Kenzie Tamm less than two minutes into the game when she suffered an apparent non-contact injury on the far side of the south football end zone, painful enough that her screams could be heard in the press box.
Goins gave Fairfield a 1-0 lead with her 10th goal of the season, a 25-yard free kick with 34:46 left in the first half.
The goal was the first allowed by the Comets (10-3-3) in nine matches since a 1-1 tie with Lakota West on Sept. 12. Mason went into Thursday’s match with 10 shutout wins on the season.
Polnow tied the score with 5:32 left in the half with her fifth goal of the season, a slam-dunk 10-yard penalty kick, a play that included the conference’s leading scorer, junior forward Morgan White, being sent off temporarily with a yellow card. White returned later in the half.
Fairfield, 12-1-1 since losing the first two matches of the season, regained the lead on Leist’s seventh goal, a short, high shot from about 10 yards off a corner kick with 37 seconds left before halftime.
“I was just happy to be there,” Leist said. “The coaches always tell us to take shots, no matter what. If you see the goal, hit it, so I hit it.”
Both teams will begin sectional play Oct. 19 at home. The Indians will face No. 22 Talawanda or No. 26 Princeton, while the Comets will meet No. 20 Mother of Mercy or No. 30 Mount Healthy.