ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The OVAC Cup girls' soccer tournament hasn't been kind to Wheeling Park in the last three seasons. On the other hand, St. Clairsville shocked previously undefeated Wheeling Central in the quarterfinals a year ago.
Thursday night at Red Devil Stadium, the Patriots (9-4) ended their recent frustration by never allowing the seventh- seeded Red Devils (7-4) a chance in a 7-1 domination on the artificial surface.
With the victory, second-seeded Wheeling Park advances to Saturday's semifinal round at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Patriots will meet No. 3-seeded Brooke at 11 a.m. The Bruins defeated Madonna in Thursday night's second game.
PHOTO by KIM NORTH
Wheeling Park’s Briella Taylor (19) looks to make a move around the defense of St. Clairsville’s Kayla Dusz during action of their game Thursday in St. Clairsville.
Briella Taylor, the daughter of Patriots coach Aubrey Taylor, put the game away early as she scored a natural hat trick in the first 16 minutes, 19 seconds of the game.
After Wheeling Park goalkeeper Devyn Nickerson denied the Red Devils' Carlee Gillespie at the 7:56 mark, the Patriots' talented Taylor took over.
Finding herself all alone just outside the top of the box, the junior let loose a strong right-footed laser that sailed just under the cross-bar and just past the outstretched fingertips of St. Clairsville goalkeeper Brianna Sowers for the first goal of the game at 12:12. A little more than four minutes later, Taylor found the net again, this time using her left foot to send the ball sizzling along the carpet and just inside the post to a helpless Sowers' left. Mikia Mueller logged the assist.
Taylor completed her first three-goal outing with a direct kick from about 25 yards out that barely eluded the leaping Sowers at the 16:19 mark.
"That's her first hat trick this season," Coach Taylor proudly said with a huge smile. "This is one of the fields that she likes to play on. When she scores she scores more because her confidence level rises.
"We wanted to make sure we got some early goals to put the pressure on them (St. Clairsville), and that's what we did. That (scoring early) gave our girls more confidence and it made their girls attack a lot more. That opened up their defense and allowed us to get open for some goals."
Attacking the Patriots was just what first-year St. Clairsville coach Wes Stoner had in his game plan.
"The goal all week was to attack them," he said. "We didn't in the first game and we played one of our better defensive games against them, but we didn't attack and kind of let them possess the ball the entire game.
"This time I wanted to try and attack instead of playing defense first, but as I just told the girls, this was our worst performance of the year, especially defensively. We just didn't play well and it was a team-as-a-whole. We were out of position at times and we were kicking the ball away."
Wheeling Park made it 4-0 before the half ended as Lizzie Sellers banged home a rebound after Sowers had denied Emily Cook's point-blank shot.
A trio of goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half bumped the margin to 7-0 and Taylor assisted on each one.
Carly Collins made it 5-0 at 2:28. Valerie Julian's goal at the 17:15 mark made it 6-0, and Cierra Yantz concluded the Patriots scoring at 9:29.
St. Clairsville avoided the shutout when Eberle Ferrell found the back of the net with 12:18 remaining. Gillespie charted the assist. Sowers, who was peppered with 21 shots, made 14 saves.
"Honestly, Brianna played a great game and unfortunately, the scoreboard didn't show it," Stoner said.
Meanwhile, Nickerson barely broke a sweat in stopping four of five shots.