CHILLICOTHE — Unfortunately for the Lady Pirates, they got stung by a “Bee” in the final minute-and-a-half on Friday night.
That would be Unioto sophomore Reghan Bee.
That’s because Bee, in a quality non-league season-opening girls soccer match at Unioto High School and under the rare Friday night lights, scored the go-ahead and game-winning goal — lifting the host Lady Shermans to a 2-1 triumph over Wheelersburg.
That’s right, Bee with the sting in the final 89 seconds —as the Lady Pirates couldn’t clear the ball defensively, and Bee banged it home when Wheelersburg wasn’t able to possess it out and clear it from front of the net.
Bee beat new Lady Pirate goalkeeper Amber Blevins with the shot, as Blevins and her fellow Lady Pirate backliners didn’t beat Bee to the loose ball.
Hence, the Division II stronghold Shermans stunned the Division III powerhouse Pirates —as Wheelersburg replaces three key seniors off its 14-win, Southern Ohio Conference championship and district runner-up campaign of a year ago.
That trio consists of Allie Vallance and Kylan Darnell, and two-year starting keeper Brynley Preston — who is now playing at Otterbein.
The Lady Pirates trailed for the final 18 minutes of the opening half and the initial six minutes of the second, and appeared content with a 1-1 tie —which would have felt like a win, given the Lady Shermans’ strength and how Wheelersburg made working second-half adjustments.
The Lady Pirates mixed and matched, and interchanged a midfielder here and a defender there, and even defensive stalwart Maddison Kottcamp checked in during the second half to play forward for some key possessions.
But the Shermans shaped the final 15 minutes once Unioto adjusted to what Wheelersburg was presenting, as they had all five of their corner kicks in the final 40 minutes —and freshman Aidyn Danison drilled three shots in the final 13:13, all of which went wide left of the goal, including an open one-on-one against Blevins with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Although, Bee didn’t miss her chance for the go-ahead goal.
The Shermans did not allow the ball to cross into the Pirates’ offensive half — in those fateful 31 seconds from the two-minute mark on.
“We made a few decent adjustments to slow things down a little bit, but I could see it coming, and we just couldn’t figure out a way to fix it,” said Wheelersburg coach Todd Jarvis. “We were hoping to hold on, but low and behold, they were pressuring us and we had some hard decisions to make with some girls in different spots. Great goal at the end to put us down one. It was a hard-fought match and they jumped out and got one, then we settled in a little bit better. But they do a lot of good things. They possess the ball really well in the middle of the field, they have three or four players that the ball just seems to stick to their feet. Unioto is a great Division II team and you’re going to hear their name a lot come late October (Division II tournament).”
Three years ago, this year’s Lady Pirate seniors played sparingly as varsity freshmen when Wheelersburg was a Division II program —as those Lady Pirates edged Athens in an epic penalty-kicks shootout in the sectional semifinals, before falling at Fairfield Union.
The past two years and again this season, the Lady Pirates have been back at Division III — including as Southeast District champions two years ago.
Friday marked the Lady Pirates’ first-ever venture to the land of the Tanks.
The match also meant a competition upgrade for the Lady Pirates, as the majority of their matches are against like Division III foes.
Replacing Preston, Darnell and Vallance — and facing the Lady Shermans for a first match — isn’t enviable either.
“Those are important pieces to replace, but those are part of the growing pains. You don’t get to keep people forever. We have a couple of girls that we’re working as keepers, and they are going to come around and be just fine. But when you are playing tough competition like this, it doesn’t come easy. They are going to be ripping balls at you,” said Jarvis. “But I felt really good. They (Shermans) certainly had some shots, but they didn’t have a ton on frame. A lot of wide right and wide left, so that’s a tip of the hat to our defense.”
Before Bee’s goal, Lady Sherman senior Ashtyn Miller scored an unassisted marker first —with 18 minutes in the opening half for a 1-0 Unioto advantage.
Unioto’s Autumn Stanger rocketed one off the crossbar only three minutes and 49 seconds into the second half — as the Lady Pirates began to adjust, and moved Kottcamp up top, along with senior Annie Coriell and speedy sophomore Mia Vastine from forward.
Aside from the five corner kicks, and four solid shots by Danison, the Lady Shermans —until Bee’s bagger —didn’t do much offensively in the second half.
“That’s just how we play. We have a core group that we move around, and we preach early on that the more positions you can play, the more valuable you are. And these girls, it’s not easy, but they do buy into that,” said Jarvis. “It’s not always easy to move from forward to center back then midfield. But these girls are jumping in and willing to do that.”
But Bella Miller, the junior mainstay striker, manned her forward spot aside from one substitution —and netted the equalizing goal only six minutes into the second period.
Her blast beat Unioto keeper Maya Free from long range and into the upper-right 90, but the Lady Pirates’ offensive opportunities appeared often negated by spending so much energy trying to defend.
Kottcamp charged one-on-one against Free for a shot with 14 minutes remaining — but Free held firm, stood her ground, and denied Kottcamp with a stand-up two-handed save.
The Lady Pirates put forth a good showing for Friday night futbol — playing up a division, on the road, on natural grass, and one of the top D-II teams around.
“I’m proud of my team for hanging in there and the effort we put forth. The key is we just compete and work hard. We had a few opportunities but didn’t make the most of them, but all in all, I thought we did ourselves proud. Nobody likes to lose, but this is a huge step up in competition for us. I think we gave them everything they wanted and made them work really hard to achieve it,” said Jarvis. “That’s just the way it works sometimes. Tonight we ended up one goal short with almost no time left.”
The Lady Pirates return to the road, and return to non-league action, on Tuesday evening at Peebles.
First touch is set for 6 p.m.
* * *
Wheelersburg 0 1 —1
Unioto 1 1 —2
U— Ashtyn Miller (unassisted), 18:00, 1st (1-0 U)
W— Bella Miller (unassisted), 34:03, 2nd (1-1 tie)
U — Reghan Bee (unassisted), 1:29, 2nd (2-1 U)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved