Dons win 1st trophy
NEW MANCHESTER – In a game of firsts, the Weirton Madonna girls soccer team will still wear their cleats for least one more week.
The Blue Dons scored two second-half to defeat Weir High, 2-0, Saturday at the Oak Glen Multi Sports Complex in the West Virginia Class AA-A Region 1, Section 1 championship game.
It is the first time that Madonna has defeated the Red Riders and it is also the first time that the Blue Dons have raised the sectional trophy.
“I never would have expected that this year,” said Madonna veteran coach Bob Kolanko
And, in a game that meant so much, the first half was a key contributor to the outcome.
In a game where having the wind advantage was a key factor Weir High Jessica Naughton chose to take the wind advantage in the first half after winning the toss.
“I told them ‘We have 40 minutes to get a goal with this wind. Let’s capitalize on this opportunity. If we don’t, they hold the fate after that,'” Naughton said. “This wind was brutal today. I was hoping we would get more shots than we did – I think we only got off two or three good ones. It sure didn’t go the way I wanted it to.”
For Kolanko, the decision was perfect for him.
“We had the side of the field we wanted in the first half,” he said. “We defended the goal we wanted to defend. I told the girls that if we could weather the first half, we would be in a great position for the second half. For it to be 0-0 at halftime was a huge plus for us.
“I was really surprised how much we attacked in the first half. In the first 20-25 minutes we were deep into the attack zone for most of that time.”
The Blue Dons sustained every Red Riders attack in the first half and also got through Leanne Grubbs’ ankle injury with nine minutes left before intermission.
“When Leanne got hurt it was like sharks in the water. Weir High came and they came with fire for the last nine minutes and we held them off. Halftime at 0-0 is what I wanted because I knew we were getting the wind in the second half.
“The biggest wind came when Leanne came back on the field and played again to start the second half. That just lifted everybody up.”
Alayna Macaluso scored off a Rachel Grubbs assist 4:16 into the second half.
Hannah Bargar then scored three minutes later for a 2-0 cushion.
“Even at that point, up 2-0, the girls continued to put pressure on them,” said Kolanko. “And, because of the wind, Weir High had a really hard time getting the ball past midfield more than a dozen times.
“You always worry about their counter attack, but we have two players in the middle of the field in Hannah and Anna (Westfall), who have been fantastic defensively the last three weeks and were again today. It’s hard to counter-attack against us, but with that wind, it was super hard for Weir High.”
Naughton knew the uphill battle the Red Riders faced in the second half.
“We just couldn’t get the ball out of our end,” she said. “I knew once they were up it was going to be hard for us with that wind we were facing. That wind was just a killer.”
The Red Riders came into the contest having won 11 of their last 13, the only losses coming to Linsly and Brooke. Outside of those two defeats, Saturday was the first time Weir’s defense had allowed a goal since Sept. 21, a 6-1 win over Harrison Central.
“All in all, we had a good season,” Naughton said. “It’s tough losing to Madonna. It’s the first time we’ve lost to them. It’s a bitter taste right now.
“Our seniors (Alyssa Shingle, Morgan Cassels and Madison Dalrymple) worked hard all year long. They provided us great leadership. Trying to replace Alysss and Morgan will definitely be hard.”
The Red Riders defeated the Blue Dons, 6-3, on Sept. 3 for the city championship.
“There was really nothing different that Madonna did,” said Naughton. “They had Rachel Grubbs up with No. 4 (Mia Antinone) and No. 2 (Macaluso). Everything was the same, even when we came to watch them against (Wheeling) Central. We knew what to expect.
“Coach Kolanko did a great job coaching his girls this year. They have had a great season this year. Hat’s off to them and good luck.”
Weir’s Alyssa Kelly finished with 13 saves.
The Blue Dons will play on Thursday at Jimmy Carey Stadium against an opponent to be determined. Early indications are a 5 p.m. start with the boys game at 7 p.m.
“Our girls played a really difficult schedule the last six or seven games,” said Kolanko. “That prepared us for this.”
Since Sept. 16, the Blue Dons have faced Edison, Brooke and Wheeling Central twice, Beaver Local, Steubenville Catholic Central, Robert C. Byrd and University.
“Playing in those games are what gets you prepared to play in these games,” said Kolanko, whose team is 12-8-2. “This is the most complete game we’ve played all year.”