BRYAN -- Defiance had the early edge in shots and the momentum in its Division II sectional girls soccer match, but Bryan's attack, led by seniors Morgan Love and Jill Burkholder, helped the Golden Bears take control and earn the program's seventh straight sectional title with a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs.
Bryan (9-6-1) advances to play Bowling Green in a district semifinal contest at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lake High School, a switch from the original venue at Bryan, site of Tuesday's victory over Defiance (5-10-2).
"We were reflecting on (this supposedly being a rebuilding year) at the beginning of the game and how at the beginning of the season when we weren't sure of our numbers - we had 18 at one point, we had 10 and then we ended up with 13 -we were reflecting on the goals, and the girls were sarcastically saying we were only going to win four games this year," remarked Bryan coach Jeffe Wildenberg. "Walking away with a sectional title is huge for our girls."
Defiance held an 11-5 shot advantage in the first half, with each team putting three of those shots on goal, but it was Bryan that struck first.
In the 14th minute, Love won a race to a loose ball, split the Defiance defense and dribbled in one-on-one against Bulldog keeper Brittany Froelich. The senior captain shot high and put the ball under the crossbar to give her team an early lead.
Minutes later, however, Defiance struck back as Darby Fogt headed a goal kick down field to Ashley Fogle, who was moved up to play forward for this contest.
Fogle, who finished with three of her team's four shots on goal, dribbled toward the top left of the 18-yard box, then dribbled in a little toward the net, and put a shot low and to her right, out of the reach of Bryan keeper Courtney Retcher and inside the far post to knot the game at 1-1.
"She does a great job," Defiance mentor Jessica Schroeder said of Fogle. "She hasn't played much forward for us this year, we had some girls missing, injured, and we pushed her up front today. She shot the ball and did what we were asking of her."
Bryan wasted little time in countering after the Bulldogs tied the game, however, as Burkholder brought the ball along the end line to the right of the DHS goal and continued to dribble in, looking for an open teammate. After a few moves and inching closer to the net, Burkholder found Katie Roushia open in the middle and the junior shot the ball to her left and into the net for a 2-1 Bryan edge.
"We practice taking it down and looking for someone up top," said Burkholder. "I was pretty much waiting to see who would get open and she (Roushia) was there and open."
The second Bryan goal, a mere three minutes after its first and about one minute after Defiance scored, seemed to take the wind out of the DHS sails.
"Coach Bri (Clemens) and I saw that. I think we dominated the game until they got that second goal, and once they got that second goal, the domination factor just shifted and they had it the rest of the game," said Schroeder. "We told the girls we had to come out focused and not have any letdowns and we didn't show up to play tonight. Give all the credit to Bryan, they played a great game, they have some great girls on that team. They definitely dominated the last three-fourths of the game."
Bryan nearly scored a third time on its third shot on goal in the first half when Sidney Winzeler set up Roushia at close range, but Froelich was in prefect position to make the save and keep it a one-goal game heading into halftime.
The second half belonged to Bryan as it outshot Defiance 7-4, but had four shots on goal to just one for Defiance.
Burkholder scored in the 52nd minute when she took a sliding shot directly at the net and was able to lift it just under the crossbar. She then set up Love's second goal on a free kick in the 66th minute as Love sent a high header off of Burkholder's kick right into the upper part of the goal to seal it, 4-1.
"We have a newer team this year, I'm not going to say we don't have strong players, but we have a lot of new players that haven't played in awhile," said Burkholder. "This is exciting that we're still going."
Senior Eryn Porter and Fogle had two quality scoring chances in the second half for the Bulldogs, but Porter's laser to the net was corralled by Retcher, while Fogle had a shot that went just off the post, both within 10 minutes after Bryan's third goal of the game.
For Schroeder and her Bulldogs, they say goodbye to seven seniors on the roster as the team came up short in its bid for a sectional title.
"We have seven seniors this year, five of them I've had for the past four years. It's a great group of seven girls and they will be missed," concluded Schroeder. "Those seven seniors, they showed a lot of leadership, a lot of dedication and the underclassman definitely learned from them. They will be missed."
Bryan 4, Defiance 1
Defiance (5-10-2) - Goals: Ashley Fogle (16'). Assist: Darby Fogt. Shots/On goal: 15/4. Saves: Brittany Froelich 3. Corners: 3. Bryan (9-6-1) - Goals: Morgan Love 2 (14' 66') Katie Roushia (17'), Jill Burkholder (52'). Assists: Jill Burkholder 2. Shots/On goal: 12/7. Saves: Courtney Retcher 3. Corners: 10.