The Dominion Post  

Morgantown girls blank Preston in soccer semis

Created on:   Wed, Oct 18, 2017   12:14 AM

Last modified:   Wed, Oct 18, 2017   12:14 AM

For The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — There have been plenty of Region 1 Section 2 semifinal matches between Morgantown and Preston girls soccer teams, and in some of those games, the final outcome was all but a foregone conclusion.

Not this year.

The level of quality soccer being played in the state has risen dramatically, and both teams were more than capable of winning the sectional and regional titles and making some noise at state as well this year.

Indeed, the two rivals battled to a 1-1 draw a month ago, at Preston, and the Oct. 17 tussle on Pony Lewis Field at J.W. Ruby Stadium was for nothing less than survival.

This time, it was the home team that advanced.

The Mohigans capitalized with two opportunistic goals and a clean sheet for a neat, 2-0 victory.

The first half was quite evenly contested, with Preston (10-7-4) having the better of the possessions and the chances by a slight margin. The No. 3-seeded Knights built well through the midfield, and Megan Noss was particularly dangerous with speedy runs down the right side. But they were unable to generate a quality finishing effort.

Second seed Morgantown (10-5-3) absorbed the PHS offensive pressure and counter-attacked well with long through balls that just missed connecting on several occasions.

The first goal came in the 13th minute. An innocent cross to the top of the penalty area forced PHS keeper Rylee Colebank off her line, but she was unable to corral the dipping ball. It bounced loose to the top of the box, where hustling, diminutive forward Sammie Brown directed a bouncing shot toward the open cage.

Colebank scrambled back as the shot glanced off the post. It barely sneaked over the line before she could pull it back, with the linesman in perfect position to make the correct call.

The intensity, physicality and aggressive offensive posture from both teams continued unabated in the second half.

The Mohigans nearly scored on a pair of excellent chances in the first five minutes, one prevented by a beautiful, headsy clear off the line of the empty cage by Knights defender Mary Richman.

The steady MHS pressure finally resulted in a corner kick in the 62nd minute. Sharon Southall’s dangerous service lofted to the back of the congested box, eluded the keeper and ended up in the back of the net for a backbreaking second tally.

Still, the Knights kept coming, turning over the ball in the midfield and continuing to press to get back in it. But the MHS back row and Mohigans keeper Jordan August stood firm until the final whistle, sending Morgantown into Thursday’s sectional final, at University.

“We got to our possession game early,” Knights coach Rodney Liston said, “but give Morgantown credit for taking away our chances for quality shots, even after we started to send everyone forward late in the game. I am so proud of how we played all year, and how we never stopped working, even down two goals late. The effort and passion were always there, and I feel like we made great strides as a team this season.”

MHS coach Jenny Weiand had nothing but praise for the Knights as well.

“That was quite a well-played high school soccer game, wasn’t it?” she said with a smile. “The chess match with competing strategies, the strong defensive and offensive talent on display, the high level of soccer IQ: This one had it all, just like we thought it would. We knew Preston was a quality program, and our work was cut out for us. We’re happy with our effort, and very happy with the result.”

When asked about Thursday’s win-or-go-home rivalry rematch with University, Weiand could only laugh.

“Believe me, we have not looked past the next game on our schedule all year long. The teams have been that good,” she said, then paused to consider the question. “I’ll tell you this much for sure. We’ll have to walk on the field with confidence, with energy and with discipline. We do that, as the underdog with nothing to lose, and I like our chances.”

MHS travels across town to face top seed UHS — the two teams played to a 1-1 draw earlier in the season — at 5:45 p.m. Thursday.