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Beckley awaits: South girls soccer one win from a state semifinal

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Parkersburg South’s Mackenzie Mott battles against Parkersburg High’s Jennifer Morris during the Patriots’ 1-0 Class AAA Region IV, Section 2 championship win over the Big Reds. Mott and company are back in action with a trip to the state tournament on the line against Cabell Midland in Ripley.

PARKERSBURG — After gutting out a 1-0 win against rival Parkersburg, the Parkersburg South girls are a win away from the Class AAA state semifinals. The obstacle standing in their way is Cabell Midland and South (17-0) is up to the challenge for the 7:30 p.m. match today.

While goalkeeper Kendal Mader (31 saves) and the Patriots are unscored upon and have outscored opponents 63-0 in 2020, the Knights (10-3-1) dropped a 4-0 contest on October 6 at home, but have since won their last four to come into this match firing on all cylinders. South head coach Ron Bucholtz likes his side’s chances during Tuesday’s regional at Ripley, as he recounted what it took for his team to make it here. Of his team’s defensive effort against PHS, Bucholtz wants that aggression to carry over into the following contest.

“It’s going to be critical. There’s that old saying of ‘Defense Wins Championships’ which in most sports is actually pretty true,” he said. “The girls are playing really well as a unit, defensively. The midfield is all coming back to help out, and they’re all just playing good, high-quality, smart soccer covering for each other. I think they’re growing in confidence and their understanding of the game. We’re not perfect, obviously. PHS had a few chances, and over the course of 80 minutes, the quality teams are gonna find some chances on you.”

While PSHS had its hands full with an upset-minded opponent, Cabell Midland had a similar experience against a 3-8 Huntington squad. While Samara Nunn received a pass from Mia Miller to be the hero South needed on Saturday, the trio of Emma Shields, Rebecha Hunt and Olivia Charles all had to score in the team’s 3-2 victory over the Highlanders. Being dependent on that kind of output plays into South’s favor, as Bucholtz’s girls only need a single goal to be in a position to win.

“I think for us, finding an early goal is critical,” he said. “When you’re going into a game, and and most teams realize ‘Wow, this team hasn’t been scored on,’ it’s amazing that some of the coaches have no idea what our record is or our goals against is.

“Most teams probably think they’ve got to keep us from scoring, so if we can get an early goal or two on teams, we’re in really good shape. You like to play from ahead, anyway. That game (against PHS) was tight until the 60th minute. Nobody had scored, but we were outplaying PHS pretty handily. The score line doesn’t dictate the actual game. I think we outshot them 20-3 on the day, so we had more pressure on them.”

The Patriots have plenty of options if they do need some quick production, and in that match on October 6, CMHS was without leading scorer Charles (24 goals in 11 matches). Now that she’s been back, the Patriots have to contain her and score enough to get the job done. Nunn’s 23 scores in 17 contests leads South, as the junior striker is the team’s first option to find the back of the net, but that’s not all. Karleigh Dowler also netted double-digit goals, with ten on the year. Next up is Mackenzie Mott and her nine tallies in 2020.

One last component to the rest of this season for the Patriots is the possibility of playing on turf. The winner of this match goes to Beckley, where the football field was resurfaced with turf earlier this year. Should PSHS win, there’s a chance every other remaining team has multiple experiences playing on the artificial surface. While Parkersburg South prides itself on the condition of the grass at the Erickson All-Sports Facility, this is a sudden shift for the No. 1 team in Class AAA.

“The field at Beckley is almost maximum dimensions. I know it’s a full 120 yards long, and I think it’s 76 yards wide,” Bucholtz said. “It’s a much bigger field than we’ve played on. There’s that adjustment, and I think University’s field is the biggest one we’ve played on, and that’s turf. We played well on that one. Most of the teams that will be going to the state tournament are turf teams, so that could be a disadvantage to us, but we’re making arrangements to get a turf practice facility if we get past the game on Tuesday.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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