Two quick strikes leads Crusaders to city title

STEUBENVILLE – The game turned in an instant.

After 64 minutes of play, the Catholic Central and Big Red girls’ soccer teams were locked in a scoreless draw, but the Crusaders recorded two goals in 35 seconds en route to a 3-0 victory in a Breast Cancer Awareness Game Saturday morning at Harding Stadium.

“We dominated the game in most respects,” Catholic Central (6-5-3) head coach David LaRue said. “It took us about 40 or 50 minutes to figure out the field. It is small. It is artificial. The ball rolls. It bounces. We started to play small ball. We stared connecting on passes.”

The two goals made the biggest difference in the game.

“We had a little mental lapse,” Big Red (6-7-1) head coach Jared Robinson said. “We played as hard as we did for 88 minutes and to let that happen, it took the wind out of our sails.

“It took us a little while to recover but then we started to play the way we are capable of playing. We moved the ball.”

Alex LaRue, Micca Mirabella and Madeline Padgett all tallied goals for the Crusaders.

“I did know what to expect from them,” Robinson said. “They have a good program. Coach LaRue does a good job making adjustments. I knew they would play a flat back. I knew they would attack with four. The girls followed our game plan perfectly until that 30 second lapse.

“I can’t take anything away from our girls. They come to play every game. They play hard. They leave their hearts out there on that field. They represent the school to the fullest. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Jackie DuBois, Ana McNamara and Mirabella all collected assists for the Crusaders.

“I had not seen Big Red play,” coach LaRue said. “I knew their keeper was good. I knew they had a quick striker in Elayna Andres. I knew their sweeper was good. I knew we had to beat their sweeper, and we finally did.”

Moriah Vosteen made five saves in goal for Catholic Central.

Loren Gray made 14 saves for Big Red.

Alex LaRue scored a long range goal off of an assist by DuBois to put Catholic Central out in front 1-0 with 15:55 left to play in the game.

“Alex’s goal was big,” coach LaRue said. “We could not find a net. I knew we had to score from the outside. We needed to get one from outside the 18. It opened it up for us. We had some good give-and-goes.”

Mirabella tallied Catholic Central’s second goal of the game off of an assist by McNamara to put the Crusaders ahead, 2-0, with 15:20 left on the clock.

“Micca is starting to learn the position of forward,” coach LaRue said. “She is working with the midfield. She is working with the other forwards to either get a shot or to create a shot for them.”

Padgett capped the scoring in the game with a goal off of an assist by Mirabella. Padgett’s goal made the score 3-0 with 5:43 showing on the scoreboard clock.

“Our offense has improved,” coach LaRue said. “That was our weak point. Our defense has been staunch. They don’t make many mistakes. When they do, their quickness helps them. Our midfield helps our defense. We have started playing well in our last two games.”

The game between the city rivals is one of the biggest games of the season for both teams.

“This is the 10th year in a row we have won the city championship,” coach LaRue said. “Winning the city championship was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. One of my seniors told me the game was really special. She told me there was a lot of pressure because they were expected to win. I expect to win them all.”

Catholic Central’s next game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Poland. Big Red is scheduled to play Indian Creek at 7 p.m. Tuesday night back at Harding Stadium on Senior Night.

“Making the OVAC Cup Tournament was something we wanted from Day 1,” Robinson said. “We looked at that all year. Our goal was to make the OVAC Tournament. It is something a team from Big Red has not done in a long time, but the girls are resilient. They do not give up. We have moved on to the rest of our season. We are going to keep fighting.”