John Bruce, Contributor
CHILLICOTHE — Even a steady rain couldn’t slow down Unioto on Thursday in its doubleheader clash with the Alexander Spartans.
The Shermans (12-3-1) picked up their fifth shutout in their last six outings while Erin Callahan lit the lamp twice in just over three minutes late in the first half, pushing the Shermans to a 3-0 victory over Alexander (8-7), despite less than stellar conditions.
After dropping to the No. 2 seed in the Southeast District, the Shermans appeared to be on a mission to prove that they should have been the top seed with back-to-back shutouts in consecutive days.
On Wednesday, the Tanks dismantled Jackson, 4-0, behind a hat trick from sophomore Autumn Stanger and a stifling defense.
On Thursday, that defense would be without center back Jaidyn McKell, but sophomore Ryleigh Bode stepped in and the defense didn’t miss a beat.
With defensive stalwarts Abi Seals, Allie Cox, and Arielle Pelletier alongside Bode, the fortifying foursome contained the Spartans’ attack for the majority of the rain-soaked match. However, there were three outstanding chances for Alexander, two of which were negated by goalkeeper Sydney Free.
A direct kick from just outside the 18-yard box was scorched by the Spartans, but Free was able to leap and parry it over the crossbar to maintain the shutout in the first half. In the second half, while nursing a 2-0 lead, Free was able to lay out and deflect a shot wide of the goal.
The final great chance for the Spartans came on a penalty kick late in the match, but the shot was high and wide of the goal, stretching the scoreless streak to nearly 200 minutes for the Shermans.
Outside of the team’s three losses, to teams with a combined record of 39-5-3, the Tanks have only allowed six goals in 13 matches, with two coming in mop-up time.
But, the old saying goes that you can’t win if you don’t score, and Unioto’s offense took that to heart, putting constant pressure on the Spartans’ backline.
Stanger, Emily Hanes and Brandy Robinson took turns pressuring the defense, but it wasn’t until the 6:53 mark of the first half when Callahan would break the scoreless tie.
Callahan, a senior, received a pass from Gracie Heath near the top of the box, turned to her left and fired a left-footed shot just under the crossbar to put the Tanks ahead 1-0. Just over three minutes later (3:45), Callahan found a seam in the defense, following a beautiful pass from Avery Miller, and beat the keeper in a one-on-one situation to give Unioto a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Ashtyn Miller finished the scoring with 12:39 left in the game on a gorgeous left-footed shot of her own, this time on an assist from Robinson.
The Shermans will be back in action on Tuesday, hosting Washington in an Division II sectional semifinal.
UNIOTO’S BOYS FALL TO ALEXANDER
Also, on Thursday, Unioto’s boys teams matched up with Alexander in a spirited contest where the Spartans (13-1-1) came from behind to beat the Shermans (12-4) by a 5-3 tally.
All five goals by Alexander were scored in a 15-minute span, three by Kyler D’Augustino and two by Austin Shields.
Unioto’s goals were all scored by Ethan Kerns.
While allowing five goals may not seem like a great, or even good, night for a goalkeeper, sophomore Micah Geise was outstanding in goal for the Shermans. The Spartans, using their great size and strength, attacked the goal throughout the night and Geise was able to hold strong for the majority of the contest.
The Shermans will be off until Thursday when they host the winner of New Lexington and Chesapeake in a Division II sectional final. The Tanks will be looking for their first sectional title since the 2014 season.