Falcons, Pirates play to tie



Minford junior Ava Cronin (2) scored the Lady Falcons’ only goal in their 1-1 Southern Ohio Conference girls soccer tie on Tuesday at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

WHEELERSBURG — Chris Daughtry delivered two all-time hits — September and No Surprise.

Hence, on a mid-September Tuesday inside Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg, it should be no surprise that the Minford Lady Falcons and Wheelersburg Lady Pirates played to tie a 1-1 tie.

With that deadlock, Minford moved to 4-2-1 (2-0-1 SOC), while Wheelersburg went to 4-1-1 (1-0-1 SOC).

These are the top two teams in the Southern Ohio Conference for girls soccer, and each scored a goal within five first-half minutes each other —while the teams’ two goalkeepers made the match’s ultimate saves at the end of each half.

As Minford is the defending SOC champion, having swept the Lady Pirates last season, Wheelersburg won a major measure of revenge — with its 2-1 win in last season’s Division III district semifinal tilt.

But that was then, and this is now, but one thing is always the same with Wheelersburg and Minford meeting on the pitch, the contest is always hotly-contested — and close.

Perhaps too close for some fans — for the Lady Pirates late in the first half and the Lady Falcons for the final 10 seconds saw their respective keepers come up with a pair of fantastic saves.

With a minute and 50 seconds remaining in the first half, it appeared as if the Lady Falcons found the go-ahead goal — but Wheelersburg’s Amber Blevins grabbed the ball with a bang-bang reaction, and alertly extended it with her arms and hands away from the goal’s plane, and consequently the net.

The entire orb must cross the plane and into the net, not partially.

For the time, that appeared to be the save of the day, night, week, month — and maybe year.

Wheelersburg senior Bella Miller (12) maintains possession of the ball during the Lady Pirates’ Southern Ohio Conference girls soccer match against Minford on Tuesday at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

That is until Addie Lemon, Minford’s freshman keeper, came up with what 10-year head coach Shane Tieman said was “the save of the century”.

As Wheelersburg’s Krista Williams launched the final of her six shots, the ball headed directly for Lemon and the goal — but she dove to her right and landed her on knees to make the dramatic two-handed save, the final of her eight on the day.

Otherwise, Wheelersburg would have walked off with a dramatic 2-1 win.

“Save of the century so far for us right there,” said Tieman. “Addie Lemon played like a senior keeper today.”

Tieman continued, stating what Wheelersburg and Minford always seem to do when facing each other.

“Other than the game here last year, every game we’ve had with Wheelersburg for the last several years has been a dogfight. They play their best against us and we play our best against them,” said the coach. “It’s always a close game for the most part. They want bragging rights, we want bragging rights. It’s a tough game, it’s a physical game.”

And, both coaches agreed, especially on Blevins’ first-half save — a game of inches.

“Blevins is a phenomenal keeper. You can’t expect just to shoot when she knows you’re shooting. You have to make your goals when she doesn’t know it’s coming. Otherwise, she is going to be right there,” said Tieman. “It’s a game of inches. We just have to move that inch a little more. She kind of initially pinned it against the post, then she turned and I thought her inertia was going to take it (ball across goal) in. It was a hard shot, but she did a good job with that ball. It was a good save and the refs were right there to see.”

Blevins was credited with 14 saves, so not bad at all — especially against a Minford offense, which is known for its fast-paced attacks towards the net.

“Amber (Blevins) is only a second-year soccer player. Last year was her first year ever of playing soccer,” said first-year Wheelersburg coach Kevin Powell. “Her instincts are really good and we’re very proud of what she’s done in the year-and-a-half she has been with us.”

The only shot Blevins couldn’t stop was the Lady Falcons’ equalizer, as Ava Cronin scored on a cross pass from Lexi Conkel — with 17 minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the opening half.

“That was key getting a nice cross across the face of the goal right to Ava there. Getting that first goal is always the most important for us. I know if we can score one, we can score more. We did put in a brand new formation in on Saturday for this game. We wanted something a little more confusing for them, a little more advanced. I give an ‘A’ for effort by my team, maybe a ‘B+’ for execution, but there are things we can work on and can learn from this,” said Tieman. “I was really pleased with our defense, and we were playing aggressive, but we just need to execute a bit better. We want to get better every game, and no harm today for either team frankly.”

However, Powell would beg to differ.

Wheelersburg’s Maddison Kotcamp (9) tracks down a loose ball during the Lady Pirates’ Southern Ohio Conference girls soccer match against Minford on Tuesday.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

Ella Hochstetler had the Lady Pirates’ only goal — unassisted with 22 first-half minutes to play.

“To us, a tie feels like a loss. We felt like we should have been able to capitalize on some opportunities, and we really didn’t get as many chances as we would have liked,” said Powell. “We had some quality opportunities, but not quantity. I think we relaxed a little bit after Ella’s goal, lost some intensity in the middle of the field and we missed a defensive assignment on the back side on that play (Cronin goal). They capitalized on it and that’s what good teams do. We look forward to going to Minford at the end of the year and hopefully taking care of business there.”

Indeed, that rematch in a month — in the regular-season finale on Oct. 12 at Minford — is already being discussed at length.

That too should be no surprise if it’s another close encounter — only it will be played in the middle of October, at the Falcons’ Soccer Complex on the Bermuda grass surface.

Minford’s Marley Rhodes (20) attempts a corner kick during the Lady Falcons’ Southern Ohio Conference girls soccer match against Wheelersburg on Tuesday .

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

“I wish Wheelersburg the best of luck for every game except when they play us. Good team over there, lots of familiar faces and they are familiar with us too. Not a lot of tricks in this one,” said Tieman. “The next one is going to be a battle just like this one was. Back and forth and physical and everyone yelling at the officials. Just a solid match all-around.”

* * *

Minford 1 0 — 1

Wheelersburg 1 0 — 1

W — Ella Hochstetler (unassisted), 22:02, 1st (1-0 W)

M — Ava Cronin (Lexi Conkel assist), 17:16, 1st (1-1 tie)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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