COLUMBUS — After the state championship was won, after players formed a human pyramid to hold the big trophy aloft, after a Lambeau-type leap by the entire team into the student section, after “We Are The Champions” blared over the sound system, after Perrysburg High’s girls etched their names into Ohio soccer lore …
After a 23-0 season, after having outscored opponents 108-5, after an astounding 48 goals by senior sensation Maddy Williams, and after a whopping 14 matches won by four or more goals … after all that, there is this.
The Yellow Jackets competed for 1,840 minutes this season. They trailed for just four of them. Amazing!
In other words, as good as everybody thought Chloe Buehler was in goal, it’s possible nobody really knew for sure. They do now.
P-burg won the Division I state crown Friday night, beating Mason 1-0 at Crew Stadium. Williams — who else? — scored the lone goal with a little more than 15 minutes left in the first half on a penalty kick.
Before and after that it was all Buehler, who as recently as eight months ago was lying in a hospital bed after back surgery. Ask her about it and her eyes get wet.
She was steely eyed against Mason, a team that entered the title game 20-1-1 but somehow unranked. Perrysburg was No. 1. But, man, Mason was quick and tenacious and no stranger to forcing the action. The difference between No. 1 and unranked on this night was wafer thin. A post here, a crossbar there. The difference was 1-0. The difference was Chloe The Goalie.
“I’m not surprised by it,” said Yellow Jackets co-coach Margaret Bernard. “But Chloe came through in a way I could not have imagined. That is the most pressure we’ve faced all season, absolutely. And she made phenomenal saves left and right.
“At the heart of a great keeper is fearlessness. We all saw that tonight.”
The official statistics sheet credited Buehler with nine saves. It only seemed like 20 or 25 to the Perrysburg faithful that held its breath on every Mason charge.
They should not have worried. Their first state soccer crown and the school’s third Ohio title in any sport was in good hands.
“This might sound funny, but I’ve been playing for going on 12 years, and I really think soccer is what I’m meant to do,” Buehler said. “I get nervous, sure. I feel the pressure. But I love it. I do drills all the time against Maddy, the best scorer in the state. It prepares me for anything.”
And she needed everything against plucky Mason.
“They were awesome,” Buehler said of the Comets. “They possessed the ball. They brought a lot of pressure. I’m not going to lie. It was stressful. But, wow, it was fun.”
Senior Madison Melnick tried her best to make it fun for Mason, but she was robbed by Buehler no fewer than three times. On the last of them, Melnick got a perfect pass up high and was poised for a header into the net, but before she could launch the shot, Buehler flew out of the crease and reached above her shorter opponent to swipe the ball in midair. That was with 3:45 to play, and Chloe would make two more fine saves before it was over.
Earlier, a Mason shot ricocheted high, and Buehler leaped to get a hand on the ball. It caromed off her paw, into the crossbar and back onto the field of play.
It was a masterful performance from start to finish.
Following her back surgery, Buehler missed some early season games. She did not play against Gahanna Lincoln when the Jackets — gasp — fell behind 1-0 and did not pull even for all of four minutes.
Chloe The Goalie never trailed this season. She allowed but two goals. She’ll take her talents to Penn State, and the next time she sees Maddy Williams on the pitch it will be as the enemy. Williams is headed for Big Ten rival Purdue.
On Friday night, though, with the crowd roaring and singing the P-burg fight song along with the players, Williams and Buehler were hugging and crying tears of joy.
It was no secret the Jackets had the best offensive player in Ohio.
Turns out they had the best goalie too.
Contact Blade sports columnistDave Hackenberg at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6398.