A pair of highly touted girls' high school soccer teams met Monday night at rain-soaked Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville.
Linsly (4-2) rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to score twice in defeating the host Red Devils (3-1) by a 2-1 count.
St. Clairsville entered the game ranked No. 1 in the initial OVAC Class 4A standings. The Cadets checked in at No. 3 in 1A/3A.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Carlee Gillespie (8) uses her head to clear the ball from in front of her team’s net Monday night against Linsly. Also pictured are goalkeeper Brianna Sowers, left, and Halee Callarik (5). The Cadets won, 2-1. Image can be found at cu.timesleader-online.com
Linsly head coach Erica Hall wasn't worried about her team's early deficit.
"It was only a matter of time before we put the ball in the back of the net," she allowed. "We had plenty of opportunities. If we went by how many shots we had on goal, we'd be in good shape.
"We just need to mature a little bit," the former Brooke High and Bethany College standout added. "We just had trouble finishing, but some times that's how it goes."
St. Clairsville took the early lead when senior Carlee Gillespie headed in a corner kick by Eberle Ferrell at the 7-minute mark. Ferrell sent a perfect lob to the middle of the box, and Gillespie outleaped several other players, using her head to tickle the twine.
Red Devils' head coach Scott Dutton said an injury to Emily Delguzzo shortly after the goal forced his team to switch players around.
That allowed the Cadets to apply pressure for the remainder of the first half as they held an 8-2 edge in shots at the half.
One of those shots found its mark, however, and tied the game. Taylor Cunningham took advantage of a misplayed ball in the left corner. The senior tri-captain wheeled around and drilled a right-footed shot into the wide-open net in the 23rd minute (23:17).
"We had an injury that forced us to change up some things," Dutton said, but not using that as an excuse. "We made a mistake there, and it cost us."
Just over 10 minutes later, St. Clairsville had a golden opportunity to go back on top. Junior Madison Keenan broke free down the middle of the field. Her left-footed laser from point-blank range was knocked down by Linsly keeper Morgan Brunner and then smothered.
Neither team would score in the remaining time as the rain started to fall with a minute left.
Mother Nature continued her wrath in the second half and St. Clairsville threatened early when Gillespie's drive from the box was swallowed up by Linsly's freshman keeper.
Linsly had a chance to snap the deadlock in the 49th minute, but Kaitlyn Snyder's shot from the left wing rolled across the crease and just wide of the target.
The Cadets also threatened in the 59th minute as Catherine Stephens sent a blast from 30 yards out that St. Clairsville keeper Brianna Sowers made a two-handed leaping snag of.
Just pass the halfway point of the second half, the Red Devils worked a perfect give-and-go between Ferrell and Gillespie, but Brunner hustled out of her crease to beat Gillespie to the ball.
Linsly pushed the ball down the field and Snyder let loose with a shot from 20 yards out on the right wing that barely rolled past a diving Sowers before glancing off the left post and into the net in the 60th minute (60:31)
St. Clairsville got three final shots on Brunner, but she was up to the task each and every time.
"We've got some young girls on our team," Hall noted. "It's taking us some time to gel, but we like what we see."
Despite the loss, Dutton was proud of his team's effort in the less-than-ideal conditions.
"We played hard. Linsly is a very good team. We'll be okay."
St. Clairsville remains at home Wednesday when Magnolia visits. Linsly travels to John Marshall Thursday.