A Lakota West student leaned over the railing and held out a red Sharpie to Kailyn Dudukovich. “Sign me,” he shouted over the roaring crowd. He turned his right cheek toward Dudukovich and she signed his face. Her autograph was definitely the one to get.
Dudukovich had just left her signature all over the Division I state tournament. She scored the championship goal with 13 seconds left to lift Lakota West to a 2-1 victory over Whitehouse Anthony Wayne and give the Firebirds their second state title.
»RELATED: Photos from the state championship match
Both teams had opportunities for the go-ahead goal after Wayne (22-1) tied the score early in the second half, but West (22-0-2) had the best player on the field. Dudukovich made a steal to start the winning possession. Tori Kelly pushed the ball upfield, Amanda Beerins assisted with a crossing pass and Dudukovich left-footed a shot from the middle of the box into the goal and set off a wild celebration.
“I saw the goalie was leaning more towards the left so I took a chance and hit it to the far post and it just went in,” she said. “I was nervous, but when I got the ball the nerves went away. And I just knew what I had to do.”
Dudukovich had already scored 49 goals this season in 23 games, including both goals in the semifinal victory and first-half goal in this game. It was time for her to extend her Cincinnati-area record to 50.
“We told Kailyn, ‘Look, you gotta work. You do special things with the ball with your foot,’” Reder said.
Reder, a 2009 West graduate, remembers the 1999 team that won state. Members of both teams met this season, some were at the game Friday and others sent pregame video messages.
“I remember watching that game on TV,” she said.
»LOOKING BACK: Firebirds advance to state final
Dudukovich is a junior who has committed to Ohio State and has played internationally on the under-16 U.S. national team. But this year she, junior defender Sydney Jones and goalie Maddie Prohaska and others decided they wanted to add the high school experience to their club team experience.
“I made memories with this team that I will never forget the rest of my life,” Dudukovich said. “We set the goal at the beginning of the season that we wanted to win state, and we did that.”
Jones said, “I’m so glad I got to play this year with an amazing team. We knew from the start we had an amazing team with something to prove, and that’s what we did.”
From the start of the championship game, West looked like the better team. The Firebirds took a 1-0 lead when Gracie West dropped a pass over Dudukovich’s head as she was attacking up the left side. Dudukovich left-footed it on the short hop over the goalie’s head and into the right corner of the net.
But Wayne wasn’t finished. The Generals entered the state tournament ranked No. 2 nationally in the Topdrawersoccer.com poll and No. 4 by USAToday. West was ranked No. 6 and No. 11 in those same polls. Jones said their forwards were fast, and the Generals turned a sudden break into a goal by Hannah Rybicki early in the second half.
“OK, what’s next,” said Reder about the attitude on her sideline. “How do we keep our composure, how do we keep the urgency to go forward. Never did they deflate.”
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