MINFORD — For a while, it appeared as if host Minford would upset the apple cart in the final Southern Ohio Conference girls soccer standings.
But then the Lady Pirates went into a goal scoring frenzy, as Wheelersburg blitzed the Lady Falcons for four goals in almost an 11-minute span.
As a result, Wheelersburg wrapped up a share of the SOC championship — its fifth consecutive — as the Lady Pirates posted a 4-1 victory on Thursday to conclude conference play at 9-1-0.
The Lady Pirates split the SOC title with Waverly, which won against Northwest on Tuesday to secure its share of the crown.
Waverly won at Wheelersburg 4-1 two weeks ago to tie the Pirates and split the season series, meaning Thursday’s match at Minford meant a win was required from the Orange and Black in order to tie.
In addition, Minford made things even more nerve-wracking for Wheelersburg, breaking a scoreless tie with a goal just two minutes and 40 seconds into the second half.
Haley Knore, a freshman, knocked one in for the Falcons, as the match moved into the second half of the second half with Wheelersburg trailing 1-0.
But that’s when the Lady Pirates flipped the switch, getting all four goals within a time frame of seven minutes and 53 seconds.
Ellie Kallner connected first off a Chelsee Steele assist at the 19-minute mark, then freshman Jocelyn Tilley tagged a 25-yard shot into the net at the 15:42 point — pushing the Lady Pirates in front for a 2-1 lead.
Kallner assisted on the shot, as Wheelersburg struck again only two minutes and seven seconds later — when Laney Eller added a goal off a Jordan Jennings assist.
Finally, with 8:10 to play, Steele scored an unassisted marker to round out the Wheelersburg flurry — and fury.
“I am proud of the girls. It is always hard-fought when we come out here to Minford. It was 0-0 at halftime and they come out and slip one through to their striker so that puts us down one. But our girls didn’t panic. We just continued to do what we do and keep grinding. We kept shifting girls around and tried to find the right place on the right moment. We were able to gut two or three goals out and ended up with four, so that’s a huge second half for us. We played really well in the second half,” said Wheelersburg coach Todd Jarvis.
Morgan Bivens — the senior keeper for the Pirates — played well the entire match, making some “great” first-half saves in allowing Wheelersburg to keep pace with the Falcons.
“We take Morgan for granted, we’ve stood and watched her make great saves for four years,” said Jarvis. “She kept us in the game, but that’s what it takes. It takes all 11 people to get the work done.”
That work began officially on Aug. 1 for the Lady Pirates, and the project at hand was a successful SOC title defense.
Wheelersburg, a Division II program this season, won its 13th match of the campaign — against just two losses and one tie.
“When it’s all said and done, our name is there at the end. That’s all we care about,” said Jarvis. “We have great leadership on the field, and the girls that came off the bench played some super strong minutes. That’s what we ask for and so that’s what they give us.”
The Lady Falcons, with an SOC makeup match against Ironton St. Joseph remaining, fell to 7-8 with the loss — and 5-4 in the league.
Minford (No. 3 seed) will host South Point (No. 6 seed) in the Division III sectional semifinals on Monday at 5 p.m., while Wheelersburg will host Athens on Tuesday in a Division II semifinal tilt.
The Pirates landed the fourth-seed and thus the home match, forcing the fifth-seeded Lady Bulldogs to travel.
Start time is set for 6 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to it. Competitive-balance issues is what brought us up to Division II, but we understood that coming in and that’s okay with us. We feel like that’s a good matchup, and we’re glad we got the home game,” said Jarvis. “We know Athens is really good at settling in and defending. They don’t give up many goals, but they don’t score that many goals. We have to sit down and defend on the moments we can defend, and we have to find ways to produce a goal or two.”
The Pirates put out four on Thursday, and thus completed the drive for five straight in the SOC.
“League champs again for five years in a row,” said Jarvis. “It will be nice to have that big Gold Ball back in Wheelersburg High School again. These girls can put their names on it, and it will be there for years to come. They can say they were part of the Lady Pirate tradition.”
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