WAVERLY — Ah, once again, the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates played a soccer match at their home away from home —their personal playground of Waverly’s Raidiger Field.
And, once again, Wheelersburg was a winner at Waverly —this time on Monday in their Southern Ohio Conference rivalry renewal with Waverly’s Tigers.
That’s because the Lady Pirates overcame an early Emma Davis goal for the hosts, pitched a shutout for the final 76 minutes and nine seconds, and got a hat trick from sophomore striker Bella Miller — all en route to capturing a key 3-1 early-season victory.
That’s right, the Lady Pirates made another adventure to the Pike County seat a successful one.
With Wheelersburg’s win, and combined with its 1-0 season-opening shutout at Ironton St. Joseph, the Lady Pirates —runners-up in the SOC to the Tigers a season ago — are off to a 2-0 start.
And, both road wins at that, although the Lady Pirates play often —and are often victorious —at nicely-renovated Raidiger.
“We are very pleased to come here to Waverly and win. It’s a home away from home for us, we love playing here. We enjoy it up here, it’s a great soccer environment for our girls,” said Wheelersburg coach Todd Jarvis.
Before Monday, Wheelersburg rallied from a deficit to defeat Eastern Brown in last season’s Division III district championship match at Waverly, which was the 10st win in program history.
It was also the Lady Pirates’ fourth district title, all in the past five years and all at the Division III level —and all four at Raidiger Field.
Wheelersburg — now in its eighth season as a program — won previous district crowns in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before being bumped to Division II two years ago.
Even last year, when Waverly won the outright SOC championship, the Pirates played those experienced and talented Tigers to a 3-3 draw.
On Monday, the Lady Pirates didn’t allow Davis’ goal which was assisted by Morgan Crabtree — and aided by Brynley Preston not getting a clean handle on it — cause them any anxiety or anguish.
That was Waverly’s only tally —and four minutes into the match.
“We talk all the time about getting off to a good start and staying in front of the ball. On their goal, they got a good chance, and we got our feet up underneath us defensively and they knocked it in,” said Jarvis.
But from there, it was Wheelersburg’s defense —all afternoon and all the time.
“We’re down 1-0, but there was no reason to panic. We were just going to continue to settle in and play, and I was very pleased with how we battled back and played. I am very pleased with how our defenders are playing. We have Allie (Vallance), Maddi (Maddison Kotcamp), Jaelin (Thomas) and Taygen Staggs back there, then we have Brynley Preston in goal,” raved Jarvis. “It’s a pretty good and formidable defense that can do a lot of good things.”
The young Tigers, which fell to 0-3 and 0-2 in the SOC, did not record a single second-half shot attempt — despite deeply moving through Wheelersburg’s back line with 21:47 remaining.
Preston, the senior Lady Pirate keeper, posted three saves.
Jarvis said simply second-half execution, after the Lady Pirates punched two goals in to take a 2-1 halftime advantage, proved pivotal — as well as Wheelersburg’s deep roster.
“We made those halftime adjustments, and the girls carried them out in the second half. It’s easy to create adjustments in the plan, but it’s getting them to execute them, and they executed tonight really well,” said the coach. “With our depth, I thought we were able to get to them with about under 20 minutes remaining. We kept things on our offensive half, and that’s a beautiful way to play this game.”
Indeed, the Lady Pirates possessed the ball for the overwhelming majority —with the match primarily played in their offensive half and even third.
Miller made it a 1-1 tie with 18:54 remaining in the opening half, scoring on an unassisted breakaway goal.
Then, with only a minute and 38 seconds left in the first 40, Miller —off a quality assist from Grace Charles —chalked up her second goal to put the Pirates in front for good.
Miller’s marker actually began with freshman forward Mia Vastine driving in and crisply crossing to Charles, who passed to Miller.
Vastine then had the official assist on Miller’s third and final goal, passing straight ahead to her in the middle —as she tapped the orb in beyond the reach of Waverly keeper Abby Green.
That was with eight minutes to go, as that two-goal 3-1 lead looked better — and safer — than the 2-1 edge.
With forwards Miller, Vastine and the junior Charles, they are young yet speedy — being called upon to replace the scoring void left by graduated seniors Laney Eller and Ellie Kallner.
Wheelersburg was credited for 14 shots, with half of those on goal —and one shy of 10 corner kicks.
It was good to see Bella Miller get that confidence that it takes. She has the skill set, but sometimes it just takes a little bit of knowing that you can. She, Mia (Vastine) and Grace (Charles) are going to be dangerous together, but it just takes a little bit of time,” said Jarvis. “We’re young and still learning offensively, and my hope is that these girls continue to work hard and mature as far as the game is concerned. I felt our opportunities were better tonight than they were Thursday night (versus St. Joseph). It’s what you want to see. As long as we continue to get better, then we’re okay with that.”
For now, it’s difficult to complain about two league road wins — although Monday’s was Wheelersburg’s home away from home.
The Pirates play their first home tilt on Thursday — against the Northwest Lady Mohawks.
First touch is set for 5 p.m. inside Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.
“Our job will be to figure out a way to win, and that’s just what we do,” said Jarvis. “We just try to win the next one in front of us.”
* * *
Wheelersburg 2 1 —3
Waverly 1 0 —1
Wave — Emma Davis (Morgan Crabtree assist), 36:09, 1st (1-0 Wave)
Burg — Bella Miller (unassisted), 18:54, 1st (1-1 tie)
Burg — Bella Miller (Grace Charles assist), 1:38, 1st (2-1 Burg)
Burg — Bella Miller (Mia Vastine assist), 7;55, 2nd (3-1 Burg)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved