An adrenaline rush still had Beavercreek High School sophomore Diana Benigno bouncing following the Division I sectional final against rival Centerville on a wet, cold night at Northmont High School.
Her goal with 31:18 left in the second half, a shot to the far left corner off an assist from senior Taylor Ulrich, gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead.
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“Just the adrenaline was going. I thought we had them because we were hungry for another one,” Benigno said. “It was like let’s just get another one and win.”
Turns out one was enough, especially with the Beavers’ stingy defense. Beavercreek made the lone goal stand to beat Centerville for the second time this season and advance to the D-I district final. Beavercreek (17-1-1) plays Mason 7 p.m. Thursday at Monroe High School. Mason beat Lakota East 1-0 on Monday.
Beavercreek’s defense posted its 15th shutout this season and ninth straight. The Beavers haven’t been scored on since beating Chaminade Julienne 5-1 on Sept. 25 and have allowed five goals all season.
“The defense has been doing great all year,” Beavercreek coach Steve Popp said. “With that being said, we knew we had to go out and finish strong. Centerville had some good momentum and they’re a team when down they really come at you. We knew we’d be tested as a team defensively.”
Centerville’s scoring chances were few against Beavercreek’s defense — junior keeper Lauren Galloway and junior defenders Ella Bianco, Molly Sedlock and Ulrich and sophomore Tiernan McKitrick.
“We’re doing really good back there. I’m really proud of us,” Ulrich said. “It’s my senior so it feels great for this to happen.”
The postseason meeting was the second between the Greater Western Ohio Conference rivals since 2010. Beavercreek improved to 5-2-2 over Centerville during that span including a 2-0 win against the Elks on Oct. 11.
Beavercreek entered the tournament seeded No. 2 and Centerville No. 3. That was also the team’s rankings in the final Miami Valley Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association area poll. It was a rare meeting between teams seeded so high in the sectional tournament.
“We decided we liked our chances going against a local team we’d seen instead of jumping in with a Cincinnati team later,” Centerville coach Jim Gobrail said. “It didn’t work out but that was our strategy, to get someone we know.”
Centerville’s best chance to score came with 8:50 left in the game. The Elks (10-5-4) had a corner kick that was cleared over the crossbar for a second attempt. The second corner kick was cleared on a header.
“Their center backs are very strong and disciplined. Combine that with a strong midfield and they are very talented,” Gobrail said. “To their credit they certainly showed it.”
Benigno netted her 10th goal this season when Ulrich slipped a pass past a couple defenders. Benigno turned and sent the shot across the face of the goal and into the far corner.
“It was an amazing feeling knowing it’s going in,” Benigno said. “That’s what we needed to win. Knowing Taylor passed me the ball, somebody that I love to play with.”
“Their forwards are dangerous and quick,” Gobrail said. “We gave them one opportunity and they capitalized on it. … My seniors had a phenomenal year. I have a fabulous group of n seniors that are going to be missed tremendously next year.”