COLUMBUS GROVE — Senior leadership once again paved the way to a Northwest Conference title, only this year Bluffton’s veteran squad defeated Columbus Grove 4-1 to give the Pirates the conference crown on Tuesday.

It was Columbus Grove that led its seniors to the NWC championship by beating the Pirates in last year’s matchup, but Bluffton returned the favor this year and went undefeated in the conference with a 6-0 mark to improve to 12-2 on the season. The Bulldogs lost their first NWC game, 4-1, with one game remaining. Columbus Grove moves to 9-2-1 overall.

“It’s a big deal for the girls,” Bluffton head coach Jamie Mehaffey said. “Last year we came to the last title game with Grove and they had a whole bunch of seniors and they won, and this year we have a whole bunch of seniors and we won. It’s like back and forth.

“I am very happy for the girls. They put in a lot of work that started back in June with the lift and the open field, so I’m proud of that. They earned it.

Columbus Grove took control of the game early with two in the first 15 minutes of play.

The first goal came after Alison Diller found teammate Carson Hauenstein on a streaking goal with a beautiful cross that he raced into the net to give the Pirates the lead about eight minutes into the contest.

Diller took the scoring into her own hands on the Pirates’ next score when, despite being surrounded by numerous Bulldogs in the penalty box, she lined up for a shot and scored with 24:37 on the clock in the first. . half

“It’s always nice to go up 2-0,” Mehaffey said. “As I’ve been telling the girls all season, a 2-0 lead is probably the most dangerous lead in soccer. One goal and everyone feels they are back in the game so it was nice to get a bit of an insurance goal early in the second half.

“It was disappointing to give up one because one of our team goals was not to give up a conference goal, and that’s the only one we gave up. I’m sure they’re upset about it, but I think it’s gone a little bit by now.”

Columbus Grove is known for its quick-hit ability, but the Pirates neutralized the Bulldogs’ scorers for much of the game.

Bulldog head coach Chris Halker said, “They have a lot of seniors this year and they are the fastest team we have faced and that was the only thing we were worried about was their speed and ball control on our end and we could not getting our offensive end very well. They did a good job forcing it. We just didn’t clean up like we should have.”

Mehaffey admits they haven’t changed much defensively.

“We just wanted to contain them,” Mehaffey said. “We’re hoping our midfielders will come back and help the defence, but normally you have problems when you put the ball on and give up that long ball. But otherwise, we really didn’t do anything.”

The Pirates went up 3-0 about nine minutes into the second half when senior Sammy Scholes scored and Kendall Gissage and Ella Armstrong had assists on the play.

“Those first two were tough,” Halker said. “Then you get one and you think you can crawl back and turn things around and they get another one and it wears your team down a bit, but that’s what you get when you play a good team.”

Columbus Grove responded quickly with its first goal less than two minutes later when Lauren Auchmuty headed in a corner kick.

But the Bulldogs’ momentum was halted when Jassi Crawfis headed home a Scholes corner to put the Pirates back three goals ahead. Riley Enews took the corner which allowed Crowfish to score.

Bluffton goalie Julia Mehaffey made three saves and Columbus Grove goalie Gwen Langhals made 10 saves.

Contact Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.