John Bruce, Contributor
CHILLICOTHE — Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Unioto Shermans pitched a shutout.
In Saturday’s 2-0 sectional championship victory over Hillsboro (9-9), the Shermans’ defense performed their typical game, while the offense controlled the ball and the scoreboard throughout.
Unioto (14-3-1) notched its 10th shutout of the season, in 18 matches, including seven in their last eight games. Led by the foursome of Abi Seals, Allie Cox, Jaidyn McKell, and Arielle Pelletier, the Tanks’ backline was formidable once again against a typically high-scoring offense.
The Indians came into Saturday’s matchup scoring 88 goals on the season, but were held to only four shots on the day. Unioto’s Sydney Free corralled all three shots on target for her 35th career shutout (21st in OHSAA history).
But it wasn’t just the sterling defense that ruled the day for the Shermans.
The Unioto attack dominated the time of possession, while also logging shot after shot. Hillsboro’s MacKenzie Dietrick was able to parry away 14 of the Tanks’ 16 attempts on goal, but it was the constant barrage of shots that eventually did in the Indians.
Sophomore Ashtyn Miller started the scoring on a corner kick that deflected off of defender and into the back of the net at the 21:13 mark in the first half. It was Miller’s team leading 13th goal on the season, including her fourth in tournament play and 10th over the Shermans’ last seven games.
The Shermans’ typically elite passing was inconsistent for the majority of the afternoon, which is something head coach Jeremy Clark knows they will need to tighten up as they head to district play.
“Playing to feet is important on a fast field like ours, which we will have to work on more this week,” Clark said.
While the passing was inconsistent, the effort and physicality was there to help keep the Indians at bay. Avery Miller and Gracie Heath were routinely winning balls in the midfield, maintaining possession for the Tanks and playing wide to Autumn Stanger and Emily Hanes, who continued their top-level play.
Hanes rattled the woodwork in the second half in an impressive stretch where the Shermans hit the post or crossbar three times in a two-minute span. However, it was the third and final ball off the post that ultimately put the game away.
With Erin Callahan bringing the ball down the right flank, she played a fantastic cross to Brandy Robinson, who rocketed a shot past Dietrick and off the left post and into the side netting to give the Shermans a 2-0 lead with only 11:53 to play.
With the win, Unioto collected their fourth consecutive sectional title and will next host Marietta (13-3-1) on Thursday evening.