The storied season of the 2019 Lakota East Boys Soccer team came to an end on Wednesday night. The Hawks allowed a goal less than 1 minute into the game and Olentangy Liberty made it standup the next 79 minutes of play in the State Semi-Final match at Xenia Stadium. The Patriots will advance to play in the State Final versus St. Ignatius HS on Sunday at Crew Stadium. After finishing third in the GMC, the Thunderhawks finished their season as Regional Champions, beating the likes of Beavercreek, Elder, and Moeller along the way.
Just as they have all season long, Lakota East played until the clock on the scoreboard ticked zero and the final whistle was blown.
“We found ourselves in a hole a couple of times this postseason. I thought we would continue to give a good fight, and we did,” said Coach Hilen. “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get that equalizer.”
Over the course of the match, East had plenty of looks, but they soon found out why the Patriots had only given up 10 goals all season. Most of East’s opportunities came from set-pieces, which played into their hand considering the reason the Hawks were able to down Moeller were because of those set-piece chances.
“We wanted to make that one of our strengths going in,” said Hilen. “[Liberty] had some good defenders, they bodied us up pretty well. We were a couple of inches away from maybe getting a head on the ball that squeaks past the keeper more solidly.”
On those throw-ins and corner kicks, East would often rise above the Patriots, but as Hilen and the final score alluded to, no header was strong enough to get by Liberty’s keeper.
The Thunderhawks’ best chance came in the seconds following a corner kick. Parker Crowell lofted in the pass from the corner, which was quickly snuffed out and cleared by the Pats. East’s back row was right there, gained possession, took two dribbles and delivered an excellent through ball beyond Liberty’s defenders and to the feet of Casey Welage. The sophomore, with very limited time, fired a shot that was just wide right.
Though that was their best opportunity, the second half saw East have four corner kick opportunities— they just simply couldn’t get it by Liberty’s defense.
The result doesn’t diminish the tremendous season that the Thunderhawks posted. Below are the notable highlights:
—BEST OVERALL WON-LOSS RECORD (formerly, 16-6-1 in 1999)
—CONSECUTIVE POSTSEASON UPSETS OF TWO #1 SEEDS (Beavercreek/Moeller)
—FIRST GMC SCHOOL TO WIN REGIONAL TITLE SINCE 2013 SEASON (Mason)
—2nd APPEARANCE IN STATE FINAL FOUR (also in 1999)
—SECTIONAL, DISTRICT AND REGIONAL CHAMPIONS
—LONGEST WIN STREAK (12 CONSECUTIVE WINS)
It will be difficult to say goodbye to the Thunderhawk seniors who have given so much to the Lakota East soccer program the past 4-years. Matthew Lillis, Nathan Collett, Nolan Earl, Joseph Cortez, Trevor Scott, Brady Shapiro, Parker Crowll, Eyad Qgish, Luke Birdsong, Adam Kaman, Zane Combs, Demitrius Johnson, Ethan Seppi, Gunnar Gramm, Christy Combs and Luke Woodruff were the seniors that led a culture of unity that Coach Hilen said was unlike any other team he has coached.
“The brotherhood they created,” said the Hawks coach on what made this team so special. “The unity, the love for each other. It’s a very uncommon connection, I’ve not seen that in any team I’ve ever coached. They maximized it. They took advantage of that connectivity.”
Listed below are players who garnered 2019 All-GMC Honors:
1st TEAM—Braden Anderson, Parker Crowell, Nolan Earl, Brady Shapiro,
2nd TEAM—Luke Birdsong, JP Plennert, Ethan Seppi
CONGRATULATIONS AND THANK YOU TO ALL THE PLAYERS AND COACHES FOR A SEASON WE WILL NEVER FORGET!