WHEELING - With only six home games on the slate, the Wheeling Park girls' soccer team hasn't had much of a chance to show the home crowd what they can do.
The Patriots overcame a sloppy first and came out of the locker room with a new sense of urgency in a 3-0 victory against Fairmont Senior on Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
''We started off pretty slowly moving the ball but second half, it was a much better game,'' Wheeling Park coach Aubrey Taylor said. ''We weren't connecting our passes in the first half and getting a lot of bad traps. That made our game suffer because we couldn't put together our passes like we normally do.
Wheeling Park’s Mikia Mueller controls the ball during Saturday’s match.
Photo by Josh Strope
''In the second half, there was a lot more connecting of passes and getting the girls in open spaces. We forced (Fairmont Senior) to run around and chase the ball more and that tired them out.''
The Polar Bears (5-3) dropped to Class AA/A this season but still showed they could still compete with some of the best in Class AAA.
Fairmont Senior won most of the 50-50 balls and put pressure on the Patriots defense. An injury in a previous game to starting Patriots sweeper Hannah Benner forced Taylor to move many pieces around, including star player Ashley Grove into the back.
Wheeling Park's Meghan Horan thought she broke the scoreless tie in the 50th minute, but her turnaround shot was deflected away by a diving Fairmont Senior goalie Kayla Delorenzo.
But that scoring chance seemingly picked up the attack by the Patriots, who finally got on the scoreboard less than a minute later when Horan found Mikia Mueller at the top of the box and the junior buried it low past Delorenzo.
''That was a very big goal for Mikia,'' Taylor said. ''We were looking for someone to break through because their defense was playing very well. That goal made us feel a little more secure and made us feel would get through the defense and score goals.''
Boy did it.
Wheeling Park (6-2-2) began peppering Fairmont Senior with shots, including a long strike by Grove, who also played midfield and forward, that Delorenzo thought she had a hand on. Instead, the ball slipped from her grasp and Carly Collins was there to boot the ball into the empty net in the 57th minute.
''I was disappointed because we were able to hold them at halftime,'' said Fairmont Senior coach Debbie Cattafesta, in her second stint as Polar Bears coach. ''We have some kids that just aren't used to playing together right now. But we hope to bring it together before the end of the season. These matches are just for training.''
The Patriots even had a little luck go its way as freshman Trudy Railing's high shot bounced high in the air and through a number of players before finally ending up in the corner of the net in the 72nd minute for the final goal.
''We aren't ready for OVACs because we don't have all our players right now,'' Taylor said. ''We have had to plug in a lot of different players so everybody is still learning different positions. That is making it a little difficult right now, but we will be ready for OVACs.''