By Gary R. Rasberry
FINDLAY -- It seems in every sport, it's tough to beat a team more than once in a season.
Celina was hoping to buck the trend as it faced Findlay in the Division I sectional at Graham Stadium in Findlay. The Bulldogs opened the season at home with the Trojans, and defeated Findlay, 1-0.
It appeared, though, that the Trojans learned a few things from the first meeting as Findlay held Celina to just four shots on the night and scored two first-half goals to upend the Bulldogs with a 2-0 win.
The Trojans (7-8-2) advance to play Shawnee on Monday at 7 p.m. Shawnee shut out Wapakoneta 4-0 in the second game on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs, who entered the postseason with a record of 13-2-1 -- with 12 shutouts -- see the season end by being shutout themselves for the third time of the season. "It's tough. We didn't come out excited," said Celina coach Cal Freeman. "(Findlay) came out to play, right from the kickoff. They were beating us to the 50/50 balls, beat us by popping one in on a cross. Then it was an uphill battle."
Findlay came out tenacious in the opening moments, keeping Celina away from the goal -- a pattern that lasted the entire game as the Bulldogs had just four shots on goal all evening, including just one in the first half.
"We had to play higher pressure," said Findlay coach Kevin Veroneau about the gameplan for the rematch. "We felt if we played higher pressure against them, it would force them to play two-touch soccer rather than playing quicker."
The plan worked as Findlay struck quickly. Jillian Birchmeier came down the near side and lofted a crossing pass that found an opening in the middle of the penalty box. Angie Misamore was right on target in putting the shot past Laura Kuhn at the 35:42 mark to draw first blood.
The Trojans continued to pepper Kuhn in the first half, taking nine shots on goal. A second one connected with the back of the net with just under six minutes remaining in the first half as Loveda Van Der Molen found Birchmeier inside for the goal that gave the Trojans all they needed for the win.
"We talked about the mental aspect -- in the first five minutes, getting ahead," said Veroneau. "Especially the last result. We didn't want to let it go too long or they would get more confidence. We needed to get the goal early and set the tone for the game.
"We got a lot of quality looks. Fortunately, we were able to get one of our early ones. Then we got one late in the first half. It was key to keep the momentum in our favor."
Celina tried to attack the Findlay goal a little more in the second 40 minutes, getting three shots on goal, but Findlay kept its pressure up. Several times, it looked like Celina was setting up for a shot, but a Trojan defender knocked the ball out of the box.
"We made some adjustments, changed some things and kept them shut out (in the second half)," said Freeman. "We still couldn't create anything.
"A lot of credit goes to the Findlay squad. We played them earlier in the year. They're a tough team. We were fortunate to beat them 1-0 the first time, but they came back and gave it to us 2-0. My hat goes off to them and wish them luck in the tournament. We just couldn't get our act together today."