OVAC?Soccer Cup playoffs open Monday

The annual OVAC Cup soccer tournaments – boys and girls – get under way this week.

The boys’ portion of the event begins play at Brooke High School Monday, while the girls’ event will be held on the turf at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville, starting Tuesday.

Weir captured the top seed in the boys’ event, with Morgantown seeded first in the girls’ tournament.

IN BOYS’ action, the Red Riders will meet No. 8 Morgantown in the first game Monday (5 p.m.), while battle of Steubenville completes the first night when the No. 4 Crusaders and No. 5 Big Red square off.

On Wednesday, No. 2 University and No. 7 Parkersburg South meet at 5 p.m., with third-seeded St. Clairsville meeting No. 6 Wheeling Park in the nightcap.

“We’re proud to make the OVAC Tournament again, especially after the season that we’ve had,” St. Clairsville boys’ head coach Gary Watt said. “We lost a quality senior class, but these guys have stepped up. However, the injury bug has really taken its toll on us of late.”

Leading scorer Jimmy Cash has missed the last five games with a hip injury, and his status is uncertain.

“Jimmy hasn’t been cleared to play yet,” Watt said on Friday morning. “We’re hoping to get him back.”

Sophomore Zach Oliver has been playing with a nagging hip injury, while midfielder Ty Boone is nursing a back problem.

“We’re really hoping that all three of those kids play because we know we have a mountain to climb in Wheeling Park,” Watt noted. “They are the reigning champions and still are the program that sets the standard that every other team tries to measure up to.

“We’re preparing hard for them and we’re going to give them our best shot.”

Watt has been real impressed with the work of his goalkeeper, senior Izaac Wiley.

“Izaac has been a wall for us. He has absolutely been the heart and soul of our defense.”

Watt also praised the performances of freshmen Merrick Malin, Baden Powell and Jacob Hawthorne, as well as senior Austin Holmes.

IN GIRLS’ action, the top-seeded Mohigans get No. 8 East Liverpool Tuesday in the 5 p.m. lid-lifter. No. 4 Linsly and fifth-seeded Steubenville Central meet in the nightcap.

On Thursday, seventh-seeded St. Clairsville meets No. 2 Wheeling Central at 5 p.m., with No. 3 Wheeling Park and No. 6 Brooke meeting at 7.

“I know that they have a lot of wins and have had some high scoring games,” St. Clairsville head coach Scott Dutton said of the Maroon Knights. “They’ve got some pretty fast girls and several good shooters. Their offense is powerful.”

The Red Devils strength has been in its defense.

“We’ve got a pretty strong defense and they (Wheeling Central) will have to deal with our offense, which isn’t too bad.”

Carlie Gillespie leads St. Clairsville with 17 goals, one more than Taryn Barr.

The Red Devils are coming off back-to-back losses to Brooke and Wheeling Park.

“We knew last week would be a tough one for us,” Dutton noted. “We held our own against Brooke, but Wheeling Park pretty much manhandled us.”

Playing at home should give St. Clairsville an added boost.

“It can’t hurt,” Dutton said. “We play and practice on it (the turf) all the time, and Wheeling Central doesn’t get many chances at playing on turf, so it should give us an advantage.”

Semifinal action in both divisions will take place Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium. The girls’ semis are set for 9 and 11 a.m., with the boys playing at 1 and 3 p.m. The championship finals are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 1, with the boys getting under way at 5:30 p.m. The girls’ game is slated for 7:30.

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com