Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

Morgantown High girls’ soccer team earns top seed in state tourney

WHEELING — The Morgantown High girls soccer team is heading to the state tournament by virtue of a 3-1 win over Bridgeport in the Class AAA Region I final Tuesday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“I’m just excited for the girls,” MHS coach Stirlin Rivers said. “I just want them to perform well all the time. I don’t care if we win or lose, I just want them to perform.”

Perform they did, as the Mohigans (18-1-1) battled with Bridgeport the entire night. The first half unfolded as a defensive slugfest on both sides as each team only generated one or two quality looks on goal.

“Kudos to coach Sam (McKinney) and Bridgeport, they came with a game plan and they executed in the first half,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t easy.”

With the win, Morgantown High advances to next week’s state tournament in Beckley as the No. 1 overall seed. MHS will play fourth-seeded Hedgesville (14-2-3) at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4. No. 2 Parkersburg South will play No. 3 George Washington in the other semifinal game.

One of Morgantown’s best chances in the half came on a corner kick with 50 seconds left that was headed just inches wide right of the goal.

The Mohigans finally broke through three minutes into the second half when Bridgeport’s goalie came too far out of her own net to try and play a bouncing ball. The final bounce lofted up and out of the keeper’s reach and Morgantown’s Gracie Brown was able to slip behind her and negotiate the ball into the open net.

“I could tell the goalie wasn’t going to fully get it,” Brown explained. “So I just wanted to get behind her just in case and it just worked out that way.”

That gave the Mohigans a1-0 lead with 36:52 to play and shifted momentum firmly into their corner.
“We could feel the pressure, we could feel (Bridgeport’s) energy. They came out with everything they had,” Brown said. “It was a big relief after we scored that goal and I think the energy shifted to us and we just started playing our game.”

“After that, we had to try to control it and play our game,” Rivers added. “Once we do that, it slows everything down, we see openings and the players feel comfortable on the ball.”
Just as Rivers said, Morgantown appeared to start playing with much more confidence following the first goal and struck again five minutes later on a picture-perfect play.

Ashleigh Weaver received a pass from Lily Gorman-Wilson all alone in front of Bridgeport’s net. She made a move to her right to get around Bridgport’s goalie and buried the ball for a 2-0 Morgantown advantage.

The Indians got their chance to strike back when Kylie Bender was taken down inside Morgantown’s box and was awarded a penalty kick at the 25:19 mark. Bender beat Morgantown’s goalie to her right to cut the Mohigans’ lead to 2-1.

After nursing a one-goal lead through 15 minutes of even play, Brown scored again at the 10:27 mark to extend the Mohigan’s lead back to two goals, 3-1.

“It was an energy shift again,” she said. “We could feel it when they scored, everyone was a little scared and timid. But after that score, I think we got it back again.”

Bridgeport had one final chance to make it a one-goal game with four minutes left when they were awarded a free kick from 20 yards out. After some initial pinballing out of the kick, Morgantown goalkeeper Madysen Scheller turned away what would end up being one of the Indians’ last quality chances on goal.

Scheller ended the night with eight saves on nine Bridgeport shots. Brown had two goals for Morgantown while Weaver had one. Lilly Staples, Cloe Ratliff and Carpenter all tallied an assist.

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