With three players out for the season, including first-team all-league performer Sydney Woodring, Evergreen had still had enough to tie Swanton on the season’s last day to get a share of a league title.
However, on a raw day with winds howling at a constant 23 miles per hour, in an attempt to win their fourth straight sectional title, the Vikings weren’t as fortunate as they fell to fourth-seeded Ottawa Hills 2-0 in a Division III sectional final at Evergreen Thursday.
After going 15 straight games without a loss, it was the first setback for the Vikings since the first game of the season against top-seeded Ottawa Glandorf.
“Getting injury plagued this late in the season, it makes it very challenging,” expressed Viking Coach Joshua Radel. “We had (to) try (to) make a lot of adjustments. These kids gave all they could on the field.”
Chances were few for Evergreen in the first half with the wind.
Kenzie Mitchey’s header off a corner at the 22 minute mark sailed just high.
Raegan Radel’s shot from 25 yards out a few minutes later was corralled by Annie Bazzoli and then Paige Radel’s free kick with two minutes to go was covered up by Bazzoli.
Callie Benner came way out of the net to spear a high flyer just ahead of a Green Bear attacker with 15 minutes on the clock, but wasn’t as successful with under 30 seconds to go.
A floater against the wind curled backward in front of the net and when Olivia Peterson made an attempt that was mishit, the ball fluttered over Benner —who was charging out again — and rolled into the goal with 23 seconds left to put Ottawa Hills up 1-0.
“We knew that this was a talented Ottawa Hills team coming in,” said Coach Radel, a team the Vikings beat 2-1 when at full strength three weeks prior. “Unfortunately the one miscue we made we didn’t recover from.”
The Viking back row kept the net clean for the first 30 minutes of the second half.
Brooklyn Spradlin scooped out a Green Bear shot and cleared it from the front in the first five minutes, then Lydia Gleckler punched out a corner five minutes later.
Ottawa Hills’ top player, Meredith Greeley, had a chance later on but Kaylee Hein met her at the pass and outbattled her for the ball to stop the run.
However, the Green Bears got an insurance goal with 11:05 to go when Greeley received a return pass of her own corner and from a sharp angle from the right, curled a shot with the wind going left to right to the upper right corner.
Evergreen had one more opportunity when Paige Radel rammed a shot from the 20 that was right at Bazzoli for the save.
The Vikes finished at 12-2-3 on the year.
“This has been a special year,” Coach Radel said afterward. “These seniors who have put us on the map soccer wise will be missed. We said we would start winning league titles and advancing in the tournament and those girls have done that. This was just an unfortunate way for these kids to go out.”