Taylor "Hat Trick" Huff leads Madison past Rocky River
Story By: Curt Conrad of Richland Source
MEDINA — If Madison coach Zac Huff has one complaint about his daughter, Taylor, it’s that the senior All-American is sometimes too unselfish.
A pass-first midfielder and the state’s career assists leader, Huff took matters into her own hands on an unseasonably mild Tuesday evening at Ken Dukes Stadium.
The University of Tennessee-bound Huff scored three second-half goals, including an impossible 45-yarder on a free kick with 10:08 remaining, as the Rams rallied for a 4-2 win over Rocky River in the Division II state semifinals.
Madison (20-0-3) will play Granville (19-0-2) for the state title at 4 p.m. Friday at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus. Granville outlasted Monroe 3-2 in overtime in Tuesday’s other semifinal match in Xenia.
Madison trailed 2-0 less than 16 minutes into the match and 2-1 at halftime before Huff took charge. Her first goal came after she stole an errant Rocky River pass, took a couple of touches and unloaded a right-footed shot to the lower-left corner of the goal from about 27 yards away to tie the score at 2-2 with 28:27 remaining in the second half.
Huff teamed with freshman sensation Nevaeh Lewis to give Madison a 3-2 lead with 11:27 remaining. Trinity Tucker triggered the sequence when she lofted a pass to Lewis, who controlled the ball and allowed Huff to join the attack along the left flank. Lewis sent a pass to Huff, who rocketed a left-footed shot past a diving Rocky River goalkeeper Sabrina Rick and into the upper right corner.
Less than 90 seconds later, Huff scored perhaps the greatest goal in her remarkable career. Lewis was taken down from behind outside of the hash marks some 45 yards from the goal. Huff took the free-kick and somehow squeezed a shot over the outstretched arms of Rick and inside the back post for a 4-2 lead.
“I’ve had goals like that, but I don’t think that far out,” said Huff, who now has 133 career goals to go with a state-record 92 assists. “I had my dad on my left … and he said drive it and I just struck it.”
The improbable goal put an exclamation point on what was a virtuoso performance by the Ohio Ms. Soccer candidate. Even her father was impressed.
“I’ve told her over and over she has to take over. In fact, I texted her today and told her she would have to score three goals if she planned on winning today and that’s what happened,” said Zac Huff, who will lead Madison to the state final for a second straight year. “That’s why she is what she is.”
Early on it looked like Rocky River (19-1-2) would bring an end to Madison’s sensational season. Junior midfielder and captain Taylor Byall scored in the 14th minute to give the Pirates a 1-0. Two minutes later, freshman sensation Ava Patti scored her 28th goal of the season for a 2-0 lead with 24;27 remaining in the first half.
That’s when the Rams circled the wagons.
“After the second goal … I just brought everyone in and was like, ‘This isn’t how we play. We’re not going out like this,’ ” Huff said. “I knew we were better than how we were playing.”
The Rams finally got on the scoreboard when Lewis lofted a ball toward the back post, where Kari Eckenwiler knocked it in with her left foot with 9:04 remaining before halftime. Eckenwiler’s goal — her 12th of the season — allowed the Rams to settle down before the break.
“We were panicking so much. We weren’t finding feet and we were kicking the ball,” Taylor Huff said. “It wasn’t our style.”
Before Tuesday, Rocky River hadn’t allowed more than two goals in a match all season. The Pirates had a program-record 15 shutouts on the season.
“If you would have asked what the score would be, I wouldn’t have said we would score four goals,” Taylor Huff said. “I’m just so proud of us.”