Plenty of dramatics during Rockets’ tournament run

Yaneek Smith

It's been quite a dramatic tournament run for the Oak Harbor girls soccer team.
        This postseason odyssey has seen Oak Harbor's "cardiac kids" play at a high level while winning three of their four matches in overtime, one of which went to a shootout.
        For instance, in a Division II regional semifinal at Findlay’s Elmer Graham Stadium, the Rockets, (15-4-1) defeated Celina, 2-1, in a shootout (4-3). That followed a 3-2 double overtime win over Central Catholic, which beat Oak Harbor earlier in the season, a 3-1 victory against Napoleon, and a 2-1 win over Port Clinton in overtime in the sectional finals.
        Sophomore forward Hannah Schulte, who leads the team with 29 goals, scored both goals in the win over the Redskins off assists from Erica Winters and Elayna Krupp. Schulte scored one goal in the victory against the Wildcats and had two goals in the win over the Irish.
        However, Schulte has gotten plenty of help from her teammates. Haley Lenke scored the game-winning goal versus Central, which beat the Rockets last year in the district semifinals, and Lenke added a goal in the win over Napoleon. Remi Gregory scored the other goal in that match, and Kelsey Schling scored the first goal against the Celina Bulldogs before the shootout.
        The win over Celina was filled with the most suspense. There were several shots that hit off the crossbar or the post, plus a number of near-misses that left the tension at a high level throughout the match. Schling's goal came after her shot deflected off Bulldog defender Larisa Orick and went into the net at 37:14 of the first half. Just over 14 minutes later at 23:04, Celina's Taylor Klingshirn scored a goal off an assist from Makenna Klingshirn to tie the score at 1-1.
        The drama continued in the shootout as Oak Harbor goalkeeper Ripley St. Clair came up with two key stops and she found the net on the go-ahead shot to get the Rockets’ started. Both teams converted on their first kicks, but Kaley Daniel hit the right post on her attempt, and Taylor Klingshirn scored to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. Kelsey Schling and Makenna Klingshirn both scored to help Celina maintain a one-point lead at 3-2, and Lenke tied it up at 3 when she scored.
        Then, St. Clair stopped Reilly Cox and scored when it was her turn to give Oak Harbor a 4-3 lead. St. Clair saved the final shot by Jena Wilson, and the Rockets erupted in celebration.
        "I wanted to do it for everybody," St. Clair said. "It means a lot to our team and the community. I'm just glad everything went our way. Our team motto is, 'Everything happens for a reason.'"
        St. Clair couldn't stop the first three shots, but she came through when it mattered most, turning away two Bulldogs in succession.
        Schulte had high praise for St. Clair, who was the difference in the shootout on offense and defense.
        "I'm going to say she's a hero because she's always putting herself on the line and is not afraid to get hit. I'd say she's a hero," said Schulte, who had 22 goals as a freshman. "That's what comes to my mind when I think of her."
        Oak Harbor coach Renee Williamson now has a career record of 239-52-28 and has won 11 sectional championship, three district titles and a regional championship in 2013.
        "We've been here before," said Williamson. "(The girls) know what needs to be done. I told them, 'You have the talent, put your heart into it.' They've shown a lot of heart in these last four matches."
        Last season, Oak Harbor failed to win the Sandusky Bay Conference's Bay Division for the first time in the league's existence for the sport. This year, the Rockets redeemed themselves and won the conference title for the 11th time in 12 seasons. Needless to say, that, along with the loss to the Irish in the tournament last year, served as a motivator during the offseason.
        "Coming into the season, I thought we'd be pretty good. Losing early on in the tournament last year and (not winning) the conference (motivated) everyone to work a lot harder," said Schulte. "I had a feeling we'd come out strong and be better than last year.
        "Over the summer, we had open fields, and we scrimmaged a little. Sometimes I'd go out to the practice fields with my dad to try and get my shot better for this year."
        Schulte burst onto the scene last year in track, too, running the 4x100 relay with Krupp and Paige Clune, her soccer teammates, and advanced to the state meet in Columbus.
        Schulte comes from an athletic family. Her father, Scott, is the offensive coordinator for the Oak Harbor football team and played collegiately at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Her brother, Clay, is a standout running back and linebacker for the Rockets and was named the Bay Division Player of the Year last season.
        "My family always pushed me and my siblings to the highest limit we can go. If we get hurt, they tell us, 'No, you're fine, just keep pushing through it.' A big factor is they believe in us. (My parents) are humble about it, and my siblings and I are, too," Hannah said.


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