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University girls grind out 2-0 win over Preston

MORGANTOWN – The University High School girls’ soccer team picked up a 2-0 win over visiting Preston on Saturday.

While the victory looks good for the Hawks (3-3-1) it was Preston goalkeeper Kadence Whitehair who made quite an impression.

The junior captain of the Knights (1-5) came away with nine saves in the contest as UHS peppered the PHS goal with 20 shots.

Whitehair, who aspires to play collegiately, even got some credit from UHS head coach Graham Peace.

“Number one, (Preston) has one of the best goalies in the state,” Peace said after he watched Whitehair turn away shot after shot and make big plays against 12 UHS corner kicks. “That makes it very difficult to score. Their defense was doing a nice job of taking away our shooting opportunities. Even though we had the 20 shots, they weren’t great shots. They played great team defense, and they are a tough team to play with.”

University was a bit unlucky in the first half as with 28 minutes left, the Hawks appeared to grab a 1-0 lead after collecting a carom off the crossbar and putting the ball in the back of the net. However, it was determined that the ball touched the football goalposts which gave the ball back to Preston and took the goal off the scoreboard.

The Hawks finally scored with 8:18 left in the first half as Gracie Oleksa followed a shot that glanced off a diving Whitehair’s hands and put the ball into the top left corner.

“We controlled the game, but we didn’t do a lot of the things that we wanted to do,” Peace said. “It was a bit frustrating on our part. We came out a little bit flat again and that’s two Saturdays in a row that we’ve done that. It’s something we are going to have to address as coaches. But I do give a lot of the credit to Preston. They played really hard, and they took us out of our game and frustrated us.”

While the Preston defense was facing the barrage of shots from the Hawks, that left the Knight searching for offense.

“We actually have two girls playing (defense) that had never touched a soccer ball before this season,” PHS head coach Kraig Whitehair said. “I tried to tell the girls that we need to play more aggressive on offense. Just getting the ball and having the will to want to put the ball on the back of the net. We tend to get the ball up and then it’s a wasted opportunity.”

Preston managed just two shots on goal that UHS goalie Emily Monti was able to turn away as she recorded a shutout.

University scored its final goal of the game with 15:03 left in the contest when Kenya Huckaby tucked a free kick just under the crossbar and over Whitehair’s outstretched arms.

“I think we held up our best, but we still have a lot of improvement to do,” Kadence Whitehair said. “We have a lot of young players, and they do their best right now and I do my best to keep us in the game.”

Peace said his team will work on some of the set pieces that didn’t materialize for the Hawks including the 12 corner kicks.

However, he also gave credit to Whitehair in goal who made several nice plays on crossing passes off the foot of UHS players.

“I was really proud with the way our ladies gutted out the win when we weren’t playing our best,” Peace said. “That’s a sign of their growth as a team.”

Preston returns to action on Tuesday when it travels to Lewis County while UHS travels to John Marshall on Tuesday.