The teams were knotted 1-1 at the half, after East junior Abby Stoughton scored the equalizer on a bending shot to the far post with 7:54 left before the break.
Loveland had taken the early lead on Swift’s breakaway goal less than seven minutes into the game, and the Tigers had several other opportunities to add some cushion before the Hawks found their answer. Stoughton had to fight through Loveland’s defense to get her shot off and scored from just beyond the top corner of the 18-yard box.
“Loveland has given up very few goals this year during the run of play, so we knew if we were going to have a chance to score at all, it was going to have to come from distance and it would probably have to come from someone we didn’t expect,” McEwan said. “Abby worked on that exact shot yesterday in practice, and she nailed it three times. It’s a testament to her work ethic, and it was a beautiful shot.”
The Tigers nearly regained the lead 12 minutes into the second half when Jordan Morrison’s header off a flip throw-in went just wide of the goal.
East continued to battle, but had far fewer opportunities in the run of play, and couldn’t take advantage of some late chances off corner kicks. Loveland keeper Lauren Parker finished with six saves, while East’s Niehaus had seven. The Tigers, who outshot East 14-8, had outscored their first two postseason opponents 11-0.
“East was outworking us,” Loveland coach Todd Kelly said. “We felt we had more opportunities and better opportunities, but … we knew we needed to be patient. We talk about how there are small moments, small instances that are game-changers, and that one was for us – them clearing out and my kids being fortuitous enough to follow. Fortunately Rachel hit a rocket off the crossbar, and we were in the right place at the right time and were able to finish it.”
The Tigers (17-0-1) will face Centerville for a district championship on Saturday night at Northmont.