Wheeling Park fends off St. Clairsville in soccer
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Wheeling Park is rounding back into form.
Following a disappointing loss to Morgantown in the OVAC Class 5A finals, the Patriots bounced back with a convincing win against OVAC champion Linsly last week.
Park continued its winning ways Tuesday with a dominant 3-1 victory against OVAC Class 4A runner-up St. Clairsville on the Red Devils’ home pitch.
Emma Delk struck first for the visitors, ripping a shot to the bottom left of the net past a diving Jaeda Nowak. Mia Zecca’s brilliant center pass into the middle of the box set up Delk for what was the first of two goals for the senior midfielder.
It took nearly 36 minutes for Park to finally get one past Nowak, as the Devils’ keeper was blocking multiple blasts from Delk, Graceylyn Hanna and Faith Mealy, who was seemingly a touch or two away from a goal more than a few times.
“We had a great night (Tuesday),” Wheeling Park coach Carrie Hanna said. “But St. Clairsville did a tremendous job defensively and their keeper was unbelievable. She was able to keep us out of the back of the net.
“I felt like we had the better of the play, but you have to finish that final ball and at the end of the day, they battled and kept us out of there.”
Nowak finished with 20 saves as she and the Devils’ back line of three freshman and a sophomore did their best to keep the visitors from converting scoring opportunities.
The visitors totaled 28 shots on goal with a few missing just wide and Mealy ringing the top crossbar at least once.
“It’s Wheeling Park, they are like this every single year,” St. Clairsville coach Wes Stoner said. “They have talent all over the field. Everyone can pass, everyone can shoot, but it’s also why we scheduled them.
“It’s good for any team to see talent like that. They were in the state finals last year and will probably be there again this year.”
St. Clairsville has experienced success offensively this season playing balls long and using its speed to get past the defense for open looks. The Devils also work the intermediate passing game and use their aggression to their advantage in winning challenges.
Park seemingly had an answer for every strategy. The Patriots owned the advantage in overall team speed and their off-ball movement meant the hosts never had a moment to get comfortable and try to make a play.
“We talk a lot about that as a unit,” Coach Hanna said. “The work comes from off the ball movement, not just the person with the ball, but moving without the ball both defensively and offensively.”
After the break, Delk returned the favor, setting up Zecca in the middle with a cross for a 2-0 tally. Wanting to get her players some quality minutes, Coach Hanna made a mass substitution, sending a number of reserve players onto the field.
St. Clairsville did manage to get its lone goal of the game when Macy Malin lofted a perfectly-place lob shot over the outstretched hands of keeper Jillian Blair.
“I’m a huge believer in player development and I want to get them all some quality minutes,” Coach Hanna said of the substitutions. “It was a very close, tight game but I want to get everyone the opportunity to get the experience and show what they can do.”
It also gave the coach a chance to talk to the first unit about what was going on out on the pitch and what needed to be done.
When she inserted them back into the lineup, they were able to add an insurance goal and keep up the pressure until the final horn.
The Patriots (13-1-3) travel to New Manchester on Thursday to take on Oak Glen, the OVAC Class 4A champs. St.C. (8-4-2), meanwhile, will play host to Parkersburg South on Thursday.