Source: Ben Spicer - Daily TimesWheelersburg coaches and players on their district championship.
WAVERLY – The Wheelersburg girls soccer team knew their district tournament opponent well on Saturday.
Not only did the Pirates play North Adams earlier in the season, a 2-1 win on Sept. 9, but Wheelersburg also faced off with the Green Devils in the district finals last season.
The Pirates won that contest last year 3-2, and would win the rematch this year 6-1 to capture another district championship.
It might have been déjà vu for some, but the games were much different.
“Dave [Davignon] from North Adams and I were talking, last year we coached this in short sleeves and shorts and this year we’re bundled up and I’m in a winter coat,” Wheelersburg head coach Todd Jarvis said. “It’s that time of year.”
“The great thing about soccer is you play outside. The bad thing about soccer is you play outside.”
Temperatures at game time hovered around the low 40s, and players did all they could to stay warm on the field.
One Wheelersburg player said it helped bring the Pirates closer on the field.
“I think it helped us to come together a little more as a team,” junior Sophie Hagans said. “It made us overcome something we’re not used to overcoming.”
In spite of the near freezing weather, Wheelersburg stayed hot on the field with their scoring, and continued to roll on offense.
However, the start wasn’t what the Pirates had hoped for. North Adams got a quick goal from Alaina Eiterman after a shot from Lakyn Hupp bounced off the goal post and out to Eiterman’s foot.
Four minutes into the match, Wheelersburg was down 1-0. The Pirates didn’t lose focus, and held the Green Devils scoreless for the remaining 76 minutes.
Junior Libby Miller said she was “terrified” when her team fell behind, but “we came back fast, we got our defense back in the game, and it was fine.”
Miller wasn’t the only one who was a little worried at first.
“I was a little nervous, but I knew that we would be able to do combinations and I trusted our defense,” Hagans said. “So, I was nervous but I knew that we would be able to come back.”
Jarvis and his team welcomed the adversity, and appeared to be unfazed by the goal as a group given their quick response.
“I just told them to maintain and think what you’re doing and just continue fighting the fight,” Jarvis said. “Continue to do the little things, and ultimately it came around.”
Wheelersburg once again was facing an opponent with a legitimate scoring threat, as Hupp has over 100 career goals for North Adams.
Honing in on Hupp and the other threats of the Green Devils’ offense, the Pirates were able to prevent North Adams from scoring as well as possessing the ball for much of the contest.
Wheelersburg registered several shots, and in the 15th minute looked to send one in when Christen Risner knocked the ball off the post and nearly through.
The officials ruled that the ball didn’t cross the line, and Risner’s score was taken off. The Pirates still didn’t panic, as they were having sustained success finding shot opportunities in the first few minutes of the match.
Risner in particular kept her composure, and continued to attack the opposition. Those efforts paid off in the 18th minute when she scored from close range to even the score at one.
Hagans kept the offense hitting, but her shot attempt missed to the right in the 22nd. No matter, as a minute later an Ellie Kallner attempt hit off the top of the goal post and in to put Wheelersburg up 2-1.
At halftime, the Pirates had put themselves in front of North Adams by a 2-1 count.
After the halftime break, Wheelersburg really started to show what they could do on offense. In the 45th minute, Lyndlee Willis found Miller for a score to put the Pirates up 3-1.
“I have a rough time sometimes finishing the ball,” Miller said. “The first half I struggled a little bit and came off a little discouraged, but second half went back in and got one in.”
Madison Humble had a close call in the 52nd minute, when the keeper for the Green Devils bobbled a save attempted that squirted out to Humble. Her shot would miss just to the right, but she would get on the board minutes later.
In the 56th minute, Humble showed off her moves when she faked out two defenders for North Adams. The senior, who has been spectacular all season for Wheelersburg, faked to her left and quickly reversed field to the right, leaving defenders in the dust.
With the space Humble created, she then sailed a shot right over the head of the keeper, which landed untouched in the top of the net to give the Pirates a 4-1 lead.
Two minutes later, Humble found hear teammate Willis to add in another goal and stretch the lead to 5-1 in the 58th.
Lastly, Wheelersburg was able to add their final score in the 69th minute of play when Miller found Risner for her second goal of the night.
The 6-1 win meant the Pirates were district champions once again. They aren’t done facing familiar schools yet, as they’ll get a chance to rematch Lynchburg-Clay in regionals.
Wheelersburg fell to the Mustangs last season 6-1, as Lynchburg-Clay made it all the way to the final four teams in the state tournament.
But, as shown in the district championship game against North Adams, this is a new look Pirates team.
“We have a lot stronger defense this year, so I’m really hoping we can all come together and do the best that we can,” senior Sydney White said about the matchup.
“I’m really hoping we can just go as far as we can, and to be supportive of my teammates. I want them to remember this season.”
Just as they did in districts, Jarvis and the Lady Pirates will look forward to the challenge.
“We’ll look forward to playing them, and we know they’re going to be a dogfight,” Jarvis said. “Hopefully we’ll be a little more competition than we were last year, but I know these ladies will play hard.”
For now, though, it’s all about enjoying the moment.
“These ladies played with a tremendous amount of heart,” Jarvis said. “It’s great to represent the Southern Ohio Conference, and be district champions.”
Wheelersburg will take on Lynchburg-Clay in the regional tournament Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 7:00 pm at Waverly.
4th minute: Alaina Eiterman unassisted goal (1-0 NA)
18th minute: Christen Risner goal assisted by Laney Eller (1-1)
23rd minute: Ellie Kallner unassisted goal (2-1 Burg)
45th minute: Libby Miller goal assisted by Lyndlee Willis (3-1 Burg)
56th minute: Madison Humble unassisted goal (4-1 Burg)
58th minute: Lyndlee Willis goal assisted by Madison Humble (5-1 Burg)
69th minute: Christen Risner goal assisted by Libby Miller (6-1 Burg)
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer