Morgantown girls’ soccer team uses aggressiveness to push past Preston in sectional semis

MORGANTOWN — The Morgantown High girls’ soccer team scored within the first four minutes of its game against Preston on Tuesday at Pony Lewis Field in the first round of the Region I, Section II tournament — and never looked back.

MHS’s first goal came from sophomore Emma Phares while running with the ball on the right side of the field until stopping on a dime before the ball went out of bounds to attempt a shot, which hooked to the right just in time to catch the upper left part of the goal. Preston goalkeeper Kinley Manko, who notched two saves, thought the ball was going to fly over the goal and didn’t attempt to stop it.

“I tried to push up my center midfielders, usually I play the two behind, so that they could join the attack a little more and we could have more numbers,” MHS head coach Stirlin Rivers said. “I knew that team (Preston) would try to pack it in a lot.

“We needed the numbers and I feel like the girls did that. They tried to push up as much as they could. At times, we had to start shooting from far because they were so deep in the middle. It’s hard to play through them. Then they started coming out and the spaces opened up, which is how we were able to get the two goals later.”

The Mohigans (15-3) had a few more chances to add to their lead in the first half. MHS shot the ball that Manko managed to deflect but started to slowly roll toward the goal before a Preston defender stopped it from going in. Then with nine minutes left in the first half, MHS again attempted a shot that just missed, hitting the top crossbar.

Rivers preached aggressiveness at halftime, saying that “a 1-0 game is still anyone’s game. So we got to score.”

The Mohigans started the second half aggressive, attempting a shot that once again found the top crossbar.

They could start to feel Preston’s defense wearing down — almost scoring three goals in a six-minute stretch.

With 15 minutes left, MHS caught the Knights sleeping and, after a great cross, the Mohigans had a 2-on-1 which led to sophomore Anna Iquinto finding the back of the net, with an assist from junior Sammie Brown — on of her two assists in the game — to extend their lead.

MHS’s third goal came seven minutes later when sophomore Irene Belda had the ball with just one defender in between her and the goalkeeper. Running on the right side of the field, she immediately cut to her left, fooling the PHS defender, and had an easy path to the goal — ultimately, icing the game for the Mohigans.

Even though it was just a one-goal game for the majority of the game, the Knights never really threatened, particularly in the second half.

PHS struggled to get out of its own side of the field, which is part of the reason why Morgantown wanted to stay so aggressive. MHS also outshot Preston 14-6, had an advantage in corner kicks 6-0 and committed fewer fouls.

MHS is “very composed. They do a great job of keeping space when they attack and that leads them to be in good position during a turnover so they don’t have to scramble to get back in defensive shape,” Preston head coach Rodney Liston said. “In the first half, we tried several one-touch shots and those are hard. Nearly impossible, especially from the range we were shooting them. Morgantown was giving us space, I would’ve liked to have seen us set up for a better shot on those opportunities.”

MHS goalkeeper Jordan August didn’t face very many shots from the opponent, but recorded two saves in the win.

With the win, Morgantown’s season stays alive and will face University in the Region I, Section II final at 6 p.m. Thursday at MHS.

University 3, Buckhannon-Upshur 1

MORGANTOWN — The Hawks (17-2-1) moved on with a win over Buckhannon-Upshur (13-5-3) at Mylan Pharmaceuticals Stadium.

Ally Bender scored five minutes into the game to give UHS an early advantage, heading in Kassidy Wolfe’s well-placed corner kick. An Eva Bridges penalty kick doubled the lead.

Ari Christiansen knocked home her own rebound to make the score 3-0, but B-U answered quickly with a penalty kick of its own. The Buccaneers pressed as the game wore on, but the UHS defense held firm and the Hawks survived to advance to their fifth straight sectional final.

“MHS vs. UHS for the sectional championship — it doesn’t get better than that, does it?” Hawks co-coach Graham Peace asked. “They’re an outstanding team and it’s a shame that one of us will be out of the tournament this early, but it should be a great atmosphere and a lot of fun.”

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