Bruins end regular season on high note
WELLSBURG – Each time Jennifer Naughton steps onto the soccer field at Brooke High School, she recalls four years of fond memories.
The 2002 Brooke graduate is now the head coach of the Weir High girls soccer team. Even though she’s now considered the opposition, Naughton enjoys coming back to play the Bruins, even when she leaves with a defeat.
On Tuesday, Brooke ended the regular season with a 4-0 win over the Red Riders on the Bruins’ senior night.
“It’s still special,” said Naughton, who was a classmate of Brooke coach Lee Weppler. “It’s always nice to come back here and bring back four great years. I like to see who’s wearing my number for them.”
Naughton’s No. 11 now belongs to sophomore Cheyenne Hudson – arguably one of the top young talents in the area.
“She does a pretty good job with it so I can’t complain too much,” Naughton said.
Hudson attempted one shot, but established strong possession in the midfield and helped create scoring chances for the Bruins. Another underclassmen, freshman Leila Hannoui, attempted four shots and finished with three goals.
Tuesday was for the seniors, though. Megan Bilak, Erin Conway, Shelby Cronin, Kaitlin Govey, Michaela Hinerman, Amanda Loughrie and Dynah Sayre leave Brooke as one of the most successful classes in school history.
“It’s great to see them develop,” Weppler said. “It’s extremely rewarding to see how they’ve changed from freshmen until now.”
Weppler, the fifth-year head coach, saw their talent as eighth-graders and decided to keep them all on the junior varsity team as freshman.
“We had a strong varsity team and some of these girls were good enough to play varsity,” Weppler said. “They got to gel a lot and form good cohesion playing a lot of minutes and dominating at that level. They were gaining confidence and that perpetuated into how well they’re doing today.”
Conway agreed that the early development on the prep stage, playing with the same girls, helped them all blossom into more talented players.
“I feel like since we started out altogether, we grew to be more of a team,” she said. “We made a lot of progress from the beginning.”
Conway and Hinerman, who scored a goal and attempted five shots, will play college soccer at West Liberty, next year.
“We’re best buds,” Hinerman said, also noting that Bethany College was recruiting the tandem.
Added Conway, “We were both looking into the same school. It was nice that it worked out this way. I love playing with her.”
In each year of coaching the Bruins, Weppler has sent at least one girl to the next level with ambitions of playing soccer.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see a girl go on to college and continue her soccer career and get a good education.
“I work hard to get these girls an opportunity to play at the next level.”
Brooke led 3-0 at halftime. After Hannoui scored two, she lofted a corner kick up to Hinerman who struck it past two Weir defenders with her head.
“They have some amazing playmakers,” Naughton said. “They pass and move the ball well and use every single player.”
Francesca Farren took three shots for Weir. The Red Riders (12-7) play Oak Glen on Thursday in their regular season finale. On Oct. 24, they open their sectional with a first-round bye.
The Bruins begin the Class A Region I, Section I tournament on Monday at Wheeling Park, against the Patriots.
“We’re extremely pleased,” Weppler said. “Our goals all year have been to play well in sectionals, move on to regionals and hope to get a chance to play in state tourney.”