Brooke Ulicny
John Bruce

John Bruce

Ulicny, Bledsoe lift Hillsboro to first sectional title since 2016

Behind goals rom Brooke Ulicny and Brynn Bledsoe, Hillsboro upended Unioto on Thursday.

John Bruce, Contributor

CHILLICOTHE — After falling in the sectional finals at Unioto in two of their previous three seasons, Hillsboro’s Brooke Ulicny and Brynn Bledsoe weren’t about to let it happen a third time. 

Hillsboro’s Hannah Holland gains possession of the ball during the first half of Thursday’s 3-2 win over Unioto in a Division II sectional championship.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

The Hillsboro senior duo combined for all three of the Indians’ goals in a 3-2 victory over Unioto on Thursday night in a Division II sectional championship.

“It’s awesome. We haven’t done it in quite awhile,” Ulicny said. “We were really ready to come out here and just show what we had. We lost to [Unioto] earlier in the season, so we were really ready to come out here and show our growth.”

The teams met early in the season, a 2-1 win for Unioto, and it was obvious that the Indians were ready to get some measure of revenge on the Shermans. However, less than 15 seconds into the game, Hillsboro found itself in a 1-0 hole. 

Unioto (10-5-3) took the opening kickoff and Karlee Renner went unimpeded down the field, before crossing the ball to Ashtyn Miller about 30 yards out from the goal. The left-footed sharpshooter then ripped a shot that just tucked under the crossbar to provide a dream start for the purple and gold. 

But Hillsboro (12-6) didn’t let the early goal take them out of their gameplan. 

The Indians played fast, physical and with a lot of lead passes for Ulicny. At the 21:42 mark of the first half, the left-footed senior took advantage of a strong breeze and hit a shot very similar to Miller’s to tie the game at 1-1.

A little over 10 minutes later, Ulicny made a key hustle play to put the Indians ahead for good. A misplay at the top of the box left Unioto’s goal open and, following a deflection, Ulicny won the loose ball and calmly slotted it into the back of the net with 11:36 to play in the first half. 

Ulicny, who had started as a defender as a freshman, made the move back to the backline to attempt to maintain the lead for the Indians. She would team up with fellow senior Gracey Dearmon to thwart the Tanks’ attack in their efforts towards a comeback. 

Unioto’s hopes were temporarily dashed on a penalty call in the box, in which it appeared that two Hillsboro players collided. Unioto was called for a push, which led to a key opportunity for the Indians. 


PHOTOS: Images from Hillsboro’s win over Unioto


With all penalty kicks, there is massive pressure on the kick-taker, as they have a big advantage. This time, however, the pressure was even greater, because Bledsoe was coming off of a missed penalty kick in their last match. 

But she was unfazed and drilled the kick into the corner to give the Indians a massive 3-1 lead with 28:01 to play. 

“This feels pretty good, especially with being Unioto’s rival in the tournament,” Bledsoe said. “It was kind of the same [situation] in the last tournament game. I completely missed that [shot]. So it was kind of beautiful.”-

This Unioto team had faced deficits before and battled back. This would be no different as the Shermans made a hard push over the game’s final 28 minutes. With exactly 11 minutes left to play, senior Elle Pelletier crushed a low, hard shot that found the net to cut the deficit to 3-2 and give everyone in attendance an exciting finish. 

The Shermans then moved Jaidyn McKell out of the defense and into the offensive end, which nearly paid off as she sent a screamer towards the post. But Hillsboro goalkeeper Breanna Karnes made a diving save to keep the Indians ahead in the final three minutes. 

That would be Unioto’s best chance late, as the Indians were able to grind out the last few minutes and earn their first sectional title since 2016. 

Karnes finished the game with 6 saves, while her counterpart Maya Free had 5 saves for Unioto. 

The loss marks the end of an era for the Shermans. The team’s seniors were a part of four SVC championships, three sectional titles, and two district championships. Seniors include, SVC Player of the Year Avery Miller, Jaidyn McKell, Elle Pelletier, Karlee Renner, Gracie Heath, Micah Hagan, Maddie Walter and Amber Hice. 

Meanwhile, Hillsboro advances to play in a Division II district semifinal on Monday at top-seeded Marietta.

“I think consistency [is key]. When we play like this, it’s awesome,” Ulicny said. “But sometimes, we don’t show up like that. But if we play like this every single game, I don’t have a doubt we can what we need to do.”

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