Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

Vanja Mueller’s golden goal lifts MHS girls to 2nd straight state championship

BECKLEY — The Morgantown girls’ soccer team captured the 2023 title over Parkersburg South 1-0 in overtime at Paul Cline Memorial Soccer Complex in Beckley.

After a scoreless result after the regulation 80 minutes of play, the match headed to sudden-death overtime. MHS found the go-ahead, game-winning goal in the second period of overtime when attacker Vanja Mueller pounced onto the ball after a rebounded save and fired the ball off of the underside of the crossbar and into the goal.

The Mohigans repeat as state champions after their 2022 run, and head coach Bri Frontuto earns her first.

“After the game when we circled up I told them they saved their best game of the season until now, which was the right moment,” Frontuto said. “Those girls battled hard for the entire game and executed on all areas of the pitch. They listened to everything we talked about for the last 48 hours and it was incredible work from every single person on this team.”

For the entirety of the first half, and most of the match itself, the Mohigans had the ball in the offensive half of the field. The Patriots were struggling to possess the ball whatsoever on offense and when they did it back the result was typically a long clearing ball that went right back to MHS.

Gracie Brown, Ariana Borneo and Lilly Staples controlled the midfield well throughout the match and didn’t allow the Patriot midfielders any chances to build an attack. If they did, a solid back-four for MHS was there in support to clear any threats. The Mohigans outshot PS 11-2 in the match.

“This game was going to be won in the midfield, and we knew that, I’ve been saying it since Thursday night,” Frontuto said. “To have the aggressive, gritty play, and keep the ball in our offensive half of the feel nearly the whole game has me speechless. Really their best game this year.”

The second half of regulation was the same script as the first, with Morgantown possessing the ball on offense and the Patriots absorbing the pressure before trying to break out on the attack.

A few chances presented themselves in the half for a go-ahead goal, but MHS couldn’t find the finishing touches inside the box, and overtime was reached with zeros on the scoreboard.

No goal was found by either side after the first ten minutes, as both teams continued where they left off in regulation.

With less than two minutes left before penalty kicks would decide the winner, Lilly Staples got the ball in the middle of the field and made a solo run down the left side and into a dangerous area. Her shot was saved but rebounded to the feet of right-winger Vanja Mueller, who rifled the ball onto the underside of the crossbar and down into the goal.

The German exchange student, playing in her first season at MHS, ended the match and gave her team a 1-0 victory for its second straight state championship.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it was even a goal at first, so I was about to cry,” Mueller said about her championship-sealing goal. “Everyone just came screaming at me and I realized it was a goal. Lilly made a really good play to get the ball into the box and I feel like we had many chances to score but it didn’t happen, we deserved that one.”

“I told them that they earned this spot and opportunity,” Frontuto said. “They’ve earned every single thing to get here and if I could I would coach all 16 of these girls again. Hats off to them for such an incredible effort all season.”