WHEELING - Tournament soccer is exciting enough. But when you go to overtime or a shootout, that's makes the nerves a little more unstable.
Wheeling Park's girls squad experienced all of those emotions and more this week. But it's all good as the Patriots are once again sectional champs.
Carly Collins' goal with 6:31 left in overtime Thursday night gave Wheeling Park to a 2-1 victory against Parkersburg in the West Virginia Class AAA Region I, Section 1 final at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Photo by Rick Thorp
Parkersburg’s Kailey Cox dribbles the ball against a Wheeling Park defender Alison Irvin during their Class AAA Region I, Section 1 final Thursday at Wheeling Island Stadium. Wheeling Park won, 2-1 in overtime.
The triumph sends the Patriots (11-5-2) into next Thursday's Region I final in Parkersburg against top-ranked Morgantown. The Mohigans, coached by former Linsly and West Virginia University netminder Ashley Neal, advanced with a 3-0 victory against University.
Morgantown blanked Wheeling Park, 2-0, on Sept. 1 at Pony Lewis Field.
''We'll celebrate for a couple of days and then get ready for Morgantown,'' a smiling Park coach Aubrey Taylor said.
''They're strong and have good players everywhere. They are very athletic and skilled. It's a team that has been playing together for a long time, so they have a pretty good understanding of each other.''
Thursday's victory was Park's second this week that went pass the regulation 80 minutes. The Patriots opened tournament play Tuesday by topping Parkersburg South in a shootout.
''After that game they had (Tuesday) and the energy they came out with (Thursday), I'm sure they're physically exhausted,'' Big Reds coach Kristen Schreiber said.
''Wheeling Park played a phenomenal game. They were the better team. They stopped us and made our touches bad. We didn't help ourselves a whole lot, but the effort was there. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way.''
Alyssa Sonnefeld and Ashley Grove were credited with assists on the winning goal. The Patriots had numbers in front of Big Reds keeper Taylor Beckley and Collins made sure Parkersburg paid.
''This is a big victory for us,'' Taylor said while holding the sectional championship trophy. ''It's great to come up with a win. These girls have worked hard and we have a good team.''
Both teams combined for four shots on goal during a mostly uneventful first 40 minutes. But one of those shots - by Parkersburg co-captain Allie Roberts - got past Patriots netminder Devyn Nickerson with 1:14 left in the half to make the score 1-0.
''I told the girls at halftime that we weren't putting enough pressure on them,'' Taylor said. ''The girls turned that around in the second half.''
Park controlled the tempo for the last 30 minutes of regulation. In the process, it tied the score at 1-1 on a goal by Grove off an Evan Robinson assist.
''That goal was a reward for all the pressure we put on them,'' Taylor said.
Park had several more opportunities to take the lead in the closing minutes, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the Big Reds (12-6-2) couldn't get anything going.
''I thought the girls played hard,'' Schreiber said. ''I don't necessarily think we played smart, but we played hard.''
Parkersburg finished the season with three seniors and 11 freshmen or sophomores on the roster. So Schreiber sees a bright future ahead.
''Expectations for us weren't very high,'' she said. ''But from a coaches' perspective and a player's perspective, our expectations were more than this and know we could have done it.''