Eastern Brown Warriors soccer-44
SOSA Staff

SOSA Staff

Eastern blanks Hiland, earns first-ever trip to Elite 8

The Warriors will now meet with Fairbanks with a trip to the Final 4 on the line.

SOSA Staff

GROVE CITY — After the final horn sounded on Tuesday and Eastern Brown concluded its team huddle, tears began to stream down faces.

Eastern’s Rylee Leonard (9) congratulates teammate Mary Litzinger (40) after Litzinger scored one of her two goals in a 2-0 win over Hiland in a regional semifinal.

But they weren’t tears of sadness because the season was over.

They were tears of joy because this incredible ride the Warriors have found themselves on is advancing to the Elite 8.

The Warriors controlled every facet of the game, from dominant ball possession to stout defense, taking home a 2-0 victory over Berlin Hiland in a Division III regional semifinal at Grove City High School.

“We just wear teams out. I noticed just before halftime that a couple of Hiland’s players already had their hands on their knees,” Eastern Brown coach Dan Silvis said. “I just told them to continue applying the pressure and playing physical with them. I don’t think anyone will find another team who works as hard as we do. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls.”

In a year of firsts for Eastern, the accolades continue to add up in what has become the greatest season in program history.

The Warriors have won their first SHAC title in over 10 years, their first-ever district title and now seal their first-ever trip to a regional final. And they made it look so easy doing so.

Eastern invaded Hiland territory a handful of times in the opening five minutes, launching a pair of shots and gaining some early confidence in its attack.

Then, they struck.

With the ball suddenly at the feet of Mary Litzinger, the senior forward made a split-second decision to just turn and fire. Hiland’s goalie got her hands on the ball, but the attempted deflection sent the ball right into the back of the net to put the Warriors ahead 1-0 with 35:08 remaining in the first half.

“We were working the ball in and out, and technically I got in Mckinzie [Dotson]’s way,” Litzinger said. “The ball hit me right in the stomach, so I just decided I was going to shoot it. I wasn’t expecting it to go in, but luckily the shot went right in between her hands.”

From that point on, it was all about defense. Hiland had little breathing room, much less the ability to string passes together for a potential chance at the equalizing goal. 

The Hawks managed one shot attempt in the first half which sailed high to keep the game 1-0 at halftime. 

PHOTOS: Images from Eastern’s win over Hiland

“For most of the season, we’ve played with the same four in the back row,” Dotson said. “We’ve found a way to all rotate since we have that chemistry. We play hard-nosed and with the mentality that we’re going to shut everyone down.” 

“We’re young in the back, but those girls are really smart and I’ve been so impressed with how they have grown up throughout the season, especially McKinzie,” Silvis said. “She’s not the fastest girl on the field, but she’s very intelligent and holds down the line back there.” 

Eastern continued to apply the pressure in the second half as it began to slowly sense that a regional final spot was getting closer and closer. 

Its aggressive play was rewarded with 26:05 left in the game when Hiland was whistled for a foul inside the box, leading to a penalty shot. 

Litzinger stepped up, took a deep breath and fired a laser directly into the bottom-right corner of the net, ultimately punching the Warriors’ ticket to a first regional final. 

“Coach always preaches to keep things simple,” Litzinger said. “We play to the feet, move the ball in and out which wears teams down. Then we send it.” 

Eastern advances to a Division III regional final on Saturday against Milford Center Fairbanks, who defeated Lynchburg-Clay by a 1-0 final on Tuesday to advance.

That matchup will take place at 7 p.m., Saturday at Teays Valley High School.

“We’ll have to do a better job at maintaining possession when we’re in front of the goal and getting off those shots,” Silvis said. “We didn’t do that incredibly well tonight, but it was enough to get the job done.”


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