WAVERLY — On Tuesday night in Waverly, the Minford Falcons had a chance to advance to the district finals and take on Wheelersburg for the third time of the season.
Getting there would be a challenge, though, as the Falcons played a tough North Adams squad. The Green Devils were up to the task, and knocked off Minford by a final score of 4-1.
Both teams had plenty of scoring opportunities, especially in the first half. North Adams came out of the gates firing, with two shots in the first five minutes of the match.
Minford keeper Marissa Watters did her part in the goal to keep the Falcons close throughout the majority of play.
“They had some good shooters, and she was able to block a few shots,” Minford head coach Shane Tieman said about the senior’s performance.
It should come as no surprise to see Watters playing well in the net. After all, she’s done that since the first time she stepped on the field for the Falcons.
“She came in as a freshman and had a willingness to play, and that’s a big part of being a good keeper is wanting to play that position,” Tieman said. “You’ve got to have a short memory, you’ve got to forget about the last goal and focus, and she’s always been good about that.”
In the 10th minute, Minford was on the attack in the North Adams side of the field. Several long range shots were saved by the Green Devils, and an Aurie Coriell shot was stopped in the same frame.
Although the Falcons had nothing to show for that possession on the scoreboard, they knew they would be able to attack North Adams moving forward in the match.
“I thought we played a little on our heels the first 15 minutes, and then we kind of settled down and played our game,” Tieman said.
Watters continued to impress in goal, and made a beautiful save on a cross from the Green Devils in the 20th minute. The anticipation was on point for Watters on the play, as she stepped right in front of the pass to make the catch. It was almost as though she knew what to expect before the ball arrived.
Just over 20 seconds later though, North Adams was able to find the net on a shot from Taylor Hesler.
That short memory was now being put to the test for Watters, as Minford trailed 1-0.
If it were a test, Watters certainly passed with flying colors. The keeper for the Falcons made three saves over the next five minutes, including a diving save in the 22nd minute to keep the difference at one goal.
The play from Watters paid off shortly afterward, as Minford was able to manufacture some offense of their own. Senior Erin Daniels scored in the 26th minute to tie things up at one, as Daniels did what she has done so well throughout her career with the Falcons.
“Erin really takes the game on her shoulders and she plays unselfishly,” Tieman said about his senior.
Several minutes later, Minford looked to have another score. When the keeper came out of the goal for the Green Devils, Coriell made the most of her chance at an empty net. Her shot bounced off the right of the goalpost and appeared to be good, but the officials ruled that the ball never crossed the line and therefore it was not a goal.
“I thought we had that second goal,” Tieman said. “I thought it was across the plane of the goal. I’m not sure, I was obviously down here [on the other side of the field], but we would have loved that one. Who knows how the complexion would have changed.”
What could have potentially been a 2-1 game at the half ended up being a 1-1 tie heading in to the break after the ruling that the shot did not cross the line.
Much like the first half, North Adams came out aggressive and on the move in the second. Those efforts paid off, as Laykn Hupp scored a goal just minutes in to the second period to give the Green Devils a 2-1 lead.
Still very much alive, Minford continued to fight hard and try and tie the score once again. The Falcons had several shots stopped over the next 10 minutes, and kept their physical level of play up.
In the 61st minute, a call by the officials of a foul against Minford gave North Adams a direct kick from about 25 yards out. On a nice kick from the Green Devils, Hupp scored for the second time on a header off the kick to put North Adams up 3-1 with under 20 minutes remaining in the match.
“I saw my player play the ball straight up,” Tieman said. “I didn’t see any extension of hands … it’s how the cookie crumbles though, you’ve got to play regardless of the calls. You can’t change a call, and the refs are doing as good of a job as they can.”
The Green Devils were able to put the match out of reach in the 73rd when Karissa Buttelwerth scored to stretch the advantage to 4-1, which ended up being the final score.
North Adams will play Wheelersburg on Saturday for a chance to advance to regionals, and the season is now over for the Minford Falcons.
The loss spells the end of the careers of six seniors: Erin Daniels, Paige Howard, Aspen Lambert, Marissa Risner, Marissa Watters and Sarah Goddard.
Tieman will miss a lot about those spectacular seniors, but most importantly he will miss “just being around them.”
“They are a class act,” Tieman said. “They came in as freshman and were leaders as freshman.”
“Effort has never been a problem with that group. I’m so glad and relieved that they’re healthy at the end of the season. They’ve got a big basketball team to go to now, and they’re not done.”
Looking forward to next season for the Falcons, replacing those key components won’t be easy. But, with Tieman at the helm you can always expect Minford ready to compete.
“There are players on the bench that are wanting to step up, and willing to step up,” Tieman said. “It’ll be an adjustment, you can’t lose six seniors and expect to just reload. We’re not Ohio State.”
“We have some good players coming up from junior high in the next couple years. We will be competitive, and we will give 100 percent from the opening whistle to the end of the game.”
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer