Those words spoken by a spirited Lynchburg-Clay head coach Dennis West in a pregame huddle to his team seconds before the Division III Regional Semifinals began never rang so true, or with more meaning, than on Tuesday night. 

Those words, added with the perseverance of Lynchburg-Clay junior Riley Creditt in the final minutes of regulation and a defensive effort for the ages by the Lady Mustangs on a 39-degree night, were just enough on Halloween night in Waverly to send LC back to the regional finals for a second consecutive season, giving them a chance to defend their regional championship. 
Lynchburg-Clay’s Creditt scored what became the match-winning goal with 4:44 remaining on the Waverly scoreboard — against the No. 6 state-ranked Wheelersburg Pirates — leading to a 1-0 victory and a trip to the Elite 8. 

“We just fought through a really, really good Wheelersburg team. They are tough, they are fast, they move the ball well,” West said. “We talked about them for two or three days coming into this, and we talked about it before we left. We talked about more of what we needed to do. 

“We needed to isolate and try to control the middle, and especially with (Madison) Humble … she is just a super player, and so is (Libby Miller). Those two, you just have to contain them or you’ll lose. Simple as that. We felt like we did a really good job of frustrating them and containing them.” 

The aforementioned perseverance of Creditt was evident in the waning stages of regulation. After receiving the ball off a pass from teammate and fellow junior Peyton Scott, Creditt sent the ball toward the net with a baseball slide motion. While sliding and on the ground, Creditt was surrounded by Wheelersburg defenders and their keeper. 

Seeing the ball had bounced away from the defense and keeper following the defensive stop, Creditt jumped back up to her feet, then kicked the ball past the keeper and defense of Wheelersburg for the lone goal of the match, raising her arms in success as she was rushed by her teammates in celebration. 

“I was fully expecting this game to go into overtime. I really was,” West said. “I thought for sure there’s no way this game gets out. Then, boy, Riley was in the right place, and she just battles. A lot of kids would have stayed down, but she got back up, and bang! She is tenacious. I don’t know of any other word to call her but tenacious.”

The goal from Creditt was enough to send the Lady Mustangs (18-2-0) back to the regional finals for a second straight year, where they will face Grandview Heights on Saturday, Nov. 6 in Waverly with a noon start. Grandview Heights defeated Bishop Rosecrans, 4-0 in their regional semifinal match, Tuesday, improving to 17-2-1 overall. 

Last year, the Lady Mustangs defeated Bishop Rosecrans, 1-0 in the regional finals. 

Getting to that point of going back to the regional finals took nearly 80 minutes of scoreless soccer, which involved masterful defense and keeper play by both squads, plus unlucky shot attempts by both teams as they each had goal attempts inches or even millimeters away from landing in the back of the net. 

Three minutes into the match, it looked as if Wheelersburg was going to control the pace by breaking away and keeping the ball near the goal protected by Lynchburg-Clay. LC eventually regained possession of the ball, but they kicked the ball off the top part of the goal. 

Lynchburg-Clay keeper Serena Smith made a timely save early in the match on an attempt by the Pirates to take the lead, then again WHS had a path to the back of the net, only to send the ball wide left with the scoreboard reading 31:43.

Peyton Scott sent the ball to the net with great force for LC, but WHS keeper Morgan Bivens recorded a save, something she had done 63 times entering the regional semifinal match. 

The Lady Mustangs were wide right on a goal attempt around the 20-minute mark, and again the ball sailed just high on another chance at a goal at the 17:00 mark. Wheelersburg got back into forcing pressure on the offensive side, but LC defender Kali Cochran had a baseball slide save of her own with 11:45 left in the first half, helping keep the match scoreless. 

As the first half neared conclusion, the Lady Mustangs took a couple more chances at the goal, but one attempt was just off near the corner of the net, and their final attempt with 1:57 left on the scoreboard was too high. 

The second half was more of the same for both teams, beginning with a strong start from both offenses, though it was Smith who showcased her skills as keeper by making a leaping stop with 35:55 remaining on the clock. 

LC came back with more offensive pressure, but the defense of the Pirates — who had allowed just 15 goals all season entering the match — made another stop around the 24-minute mark. 

The clock continued to click away for both teams as they continued to search for the first goal of the match in the second half. and even though the Pirates had scored 135 goals before taking on Lynchburg-Clay, including a 23-1 scoring differential in their three previous tournament matches, the Lady Mustangs defense didn’t budge and did what they have done all season long — protect their goal at all costs. 

“Our four girls that played on the defense back there, all four of them worked all night, and they were fantastic,” West said. “Emily Pinkerton, Olivia Balon, Chelsea Hart and Kali Cochran. Those four, I can’t describe the kind of game they played tonight. 

“It was just unbelievable. To hold this bunch down to no goals? They've scored 130-some all year. That was super. They just did a tremendous job of playing well, and I can’t say enough about them. I can’t.”

LC had only allowed one goal this postseason too, and they continued that trend when this match concluded by pitching their third shutout of the tournament, allowing them to extend their current winning streak to 16 consecutive matches. 

Just before the goal scored by Creditt — her 14th of the season — the Pirates nearly had a goal and the lead, but the shot was off-target at the corner of the goal. From there, Creditt made the save, and the rest was history as the defense did their job and LC didn’t allow a clear-cut shot for the remainder of the match. 

The win by LC gives them 111 goals on the year, outscoring their opponents, 111-13 for the season and 17-1 in the postseason, as the Lady Mustangs have defeated Piketon (8-0), Zane Trace (4-0), Alexander (4-1) and now Wheelersburg (1-0). This is also their 10th shutout of the season.

“I got a text from somebody today that I used to teach with, and he said ‘I don’t think anybody expected you to be back where you were this year after losing from all those seniors from last year.’ This group has just not played anything but great soccer ever since that Alexander game (Aug. 26),” West said of his team. “They have just played super soccer, and you can underestimate them all you want to, but this is a good team. 

“This is really a good team. I think they’ve proven that again back here (Tuesday). It’s just a super win for our program and these kids. I’m very pleased. I can’t be happier for these kids.”

Next is a match with Grandview Heights, a team that is on a five-match winning streak and finished the regular season as the No. 5 ranked team in the state. They have won their tournament matches by a combined score of 12-1.