MINFORD — Whenever the Minford and Wheelersburg girls soccer squads come together for a SOC II rivalry matchup, the contest, more often than not, tends to be a highly competitive matchup that brings out the best in both teams.
And as a whole, Thursday’s matchup between the duo may have proven to be one of the best examples of that very point.
After the Lady Pirates established a 1-0 lead off of the back of a 15th minute goal from Chelsee Steele, the Lady Falcons’ defensive intensity, coupled with a pair of goals from Ali Brumfield and Erin Daniels at halftime, allowed Minford to obtain a 2-1 advantage at the half thanks to the duo’s strikes in the 29th and 37th minutes.
However, Steele, a sophomore who has served as an all-purpose player for Wheelersburg out on the soccer pitch, showed that her nerves were made of steel as her goals in the 47th and 58th minutes, along with a pair of goals by Laney Eller (51st minute) and Libby Miller (65th minute) allowed the Lady Pirates to take home another impressive victory, 5-2, over Minford on the campus of Minford High School.
For Todd Jarvis, the fourth-year head coach was proud of the way that his team adjusted and handled adversity from the first to the second half of play.
“We knew before we came out to Minford that the contest was going to be a challenge,” Jarvis said. “We knew that the first half was going to be a battle, and it was. Minford played tougher than we did in the first half, and we commend them for that. In the second half, our girls decided to tighten it up a little bit, and as a result, we played a lot better in the back. Our center backs, with Jordan (Jennings), Mckailyn (Wamsley), Sydney (White), Katy (Todt), and Chelsee (Steele) did a really good job in the back. Chelsee moved up top and ended up getting a couple of goals, as well. Overall, our work ethic was much more efficient in the second half, and we were able to get several goals as a result.”
Even though Minford was on the losing end of the scoreboard, it was hard for Shane Tieman to find fault with his girls after the Lady Falcons put together a splendid effort in the first half against a favored Wheelersburg squad.
“Wheelersburg has a little more depth than us, but we’re conditioned,” Tieman said. “We just got a little gassed in the second half, and part of that is because I didn’t sub as much as I usually do. However, the girls played their guts out. If we can put a second half together like we did in the first half (against Wheelersburg), we’ll be hard to beat. I give credit to Wheelersburg. They played a tough game. They adjusted to us in the second half. It’s always an ‘A’ for effort by both teams when we get together. I’m looking forward to playing them at their place later on in the year. But first, we want to get a few wins under our belts before we get there.”
Over much of the first 25 minutes of play, Wheelersburg was able to control play as the Lady Pirates possessed the ball for most of the opening frame of action. Steele’s goal, which came right up the middle of the field in the 25th minute, allowed Wheelersburg to strike with the initial salvo.
However, Steele’s opening goal did not rattle Minford in the slightest. In fact, the Lady Falcons only got stronger as the half wound down.
With only 15 minutes remaining in the first half and overall momentum hanging in the balance, Brumfield answered in the 29th minute with another excellent run down the near side of the field to tie the score. Then, in the 37th minute, Daniels took an excellent through ball, found side on the near side of the box, and pounded home an excellent shot from over 15 yards away to give Minford the lead and momentum heading into halftime.
“I’ve got to give it to my girls,” Tieman said. “Ali Brumfield has scored a goal in every game this year, and Erin Daniels always finds a way to be in the right place at the right time. She’s our rock in the middle. It was just a good all-around effort. The defense, for the most part, did a great job, and Marissa Watters is a heck of a goalie. Overall, I’m proud of the girls. We’ll get better.”
“I felt like we controlled play in the first half,” Jarvis said. “But sometimes, you can run effective plays, and the score doesn’t always represent how effective the plays were. Minford did a great job of taking opportunities and taking advantage of them when they had them. Minford’s a good group and they’re well-coached.”
With Minford ahead by a 2-1 count as the second half began, it was Wheelersburg’s turn to face adversity.
But the Lady Pirates, as they have done throughout the beginning of the 2017 season, did not back down.
As they had done in the first half, Wheelersburg took the initiative in attacking the goal, which paid off after Steele collected a clever finish in the 47th minute to establish control.
“Chelsee’s an opportunist,” Jarvis said. “She’s scrappy, she works hard, and she works to get to the ball. All of that makes a good scorer. Her hat trick shows the kind of effort that she put into the contest. It’s the first time that she’s ever had that many goals. That’s great, because she plays all over the field for us.”
The Lady Pirates, however, weren’t done. After a misplayed free kick by Minford allowed Laney Eller to clean up the mess on the backside in the 51st minute en route to giving Wheelersburg the lead, the Lady Pirates were off and running. Steele added a nearly identical shot in the 58th minute to extend the lead to a 4-2 tally, and Libby Miller’s shot from well inside the box in the 65th minute allowed Wheelersburg to score four goals in just 18 minutes en route to taking control of the contest for good.
“To play on the road, be down by a 2-1 mark at halftime, and come back and do what we did in the second half is very commendable on the girls’ part,” Jarvis said. “It’s a good road win for the Lady Pirates.”
With the victory, Wheelersburg moves to 4-0 on the season and starts off its SOC II slate with a 1-0 mark. The Lady Pirates will look to continue to pass the tests that they have received when Wheelersburg plays Northwest and North Adams on Thursday and Saturday — both road affairs.
“To go to places like Russell and Minford and come out with victories isn’t easy to do,” Jarvis said. “These girls are prepared. We need tests like this, and Minford gave us a test. It helps us define ourselves.”
As for Minford, the Lady Falcons, too, have shown out as far as their tests are concerned. Minford, who is 3-1 on the year, will play at West on Wednesday and will host Williamsport Westfall on Saturday afternoon.
“This team reminds me of my first season coaching, when we won the SOC II title,” Tieman said. “They don’t play down to their competition. They win the games they’re supposed to win and take care of business in those games, and they’re in the games that should be tight affairs. That’s all I can ask out of them as a coach. I’m proud of them. We’ll take the weekend off and get back to it on Monday.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7