NILES - Austin Olbrych and the Lakeview Bulldogs didn't want to go to penalty kicks against Cardinal Mooney, but heading into the second period of extra time, it seemed like it was in the cards.
Toward the end of the first overtime, both teams lost a little in their legs, and the play became sluggish.
In the 96th minute, however, Olbrych made sure that didn't happen.
On a throw from his brother, Evan, Austin flicked it toward net, only for the ball to bounce around in the middle of the 18-yard box. The Bulldogs' Anthony Sember drilled a ball that hit Austin on his backside and somehow ended up in front of the senior forward.
Austin wasted no time, poking the ball from the edge of the 6-yard box with his toe past Mooney goalkeeper Jeremy Billett's head for the match-winning goal, 2-1, in a Division II sectional final at Eastwood Mall Field at Bo Rein Stadium.
"(Lakeview coach Nate Mailach) said if anyone scores, run straight to the bench," Austin said. "So, I ran as fast as I could to the bench."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Austin Olbrych celebrates after making the winning goal during the second overtime against Cardinal Mooney on Monday night. Lakeview won, 2-1.
Having squared off the past two seasons in the district final, this match had a feeling of those two prior meetings, but because Mooney received a fifth seed in the tournament and didn't get a bye, the two met two rounds beforehand this year.
"That game shouldn't be a sectional final game," Mailach said. "That's two of the best teams in Northeast Ohio going at it and battling to the end. We just happened to get lucky and come up on top."
For much of the match, Lakeview (14-1-2) looked like it was in trouble, especially after Mooney (6-10-2) took a lead in the 18th minute through a Miles Harris goal.
From that point, the Cardinals controlled the match, and early in the second half, pushed the Bulldogs onto their heels, constantly putting pressure on the Lakeview defense.
With the Lakeview offense struggling to find a rhythm, it needed a spark from a Colton Ainsley goal in the 59th minute to change the flow of the match. Lakeview midfielder Matt Pasternak bombed a ball into the center of the Mooney defense, and Ainsley pounced on it before drilling the equalizer into the back of the net.
"Our offense wasn't clicking very much," Olbrych said. "We were kind of just hitting long balls, and once he scored, we kind of settled down, realized we're still in this. We're started playing our game, we started getting chances and eventually, we were going to put one in."
Although Ainsley's goal extended the match, Lakeview's savior proved time and again to be Jackson Gagne.
The sophomore goalkeeper made multiple important saves during the second half, blocking a couple of point-blank shots and several one-on-one situations. Both Mailach and Mooney coach Lou Cali Jr. praised Gagne after the match, with Cali saying Gagne played "the game of his life."
"He kept us in that game," Mailach said. "He calls himself 'Stonewall' for a reason. He was big in the back. We don't go to overtime without him in the back there."
Mooney dealth with a few injury concerns that took a toll when overtime rolled around.
Harris, the Cardinals' biggest offensive threat, tried to play through an injury midway through the second half, but his injury was too severe. Sophomore Keyton Graff also went down with a quadriceps pull at the end of the first half.
"We were a pretty deep team coming in, and we felt we had the edge going into the overtimes," Cali . "The problem was our depth was gone without Harris and Graff there. We had some players out there playing on nothing but heart because they really didn't have a whole lot left."
After playing extra time on Monday, the Bulldogs have a quick turnaround when they face off against Southeast in the district semifinals on Wednesday.
Mailach said and he isn't too concerned with his team's fitness levels.
"We'll be ready for them," Mailach said. "I'm not worried about these guys (being tired). We're resilient, we'll come right back."