Polar Bears cool Riders in muggy opener

WEIRTON – Controlling the ball is important on the pitch, but what a team does with all of its possession time is what really counts.

The Fairmont Senior girls’ soccer team controlled the ball for the majority of its game Friday afternoon against Weir in the opener for both teams. The Polar Bears capitalized on their time in possession by scoring a goal in each half en route to a 2-1 victory over the Red Riders at Jimmy Carey Stadium.

“I felt in the first half that it was anybody’s game,” Weir head coach Jessica Naughton said. “For five seconds we lost a mark, and they were able to score.

“We were able to come back and tie it, but I knew they were going to come back real hard in the second half. They kept possession of the ball. They started passing the ball more, and I think we wore down.

“On the second goal, I talked to Brooke (Hawthorne) and Alyssa (Kelly). One thought the other was going to come out and get it, while the other thought the other was going to get it.

“It was a freak goal. To lose a game on a goal like that is tough on a coach.”

The Polar Bears scored their goals less than 13 minutes apart.

“We definitely started slow, and then we picked it up and started playing our game,” Fairmont Senior head coach Ryann Moore said. “It is definitely nice to come off the field after your first game with a win.”

Sofia Sansalone and Sophie Manchin each netted goals for Fairmont Senior.

Hanna Dragonir recorded the goal for the Red Riders.

Fairmont Senior goalie Kayla DeLorenzo and Weir keeper Alyssa Kelly each tallied four saves on the day.

The Polar Bears outshot the Red Riders, 10-5. The victors had eight shots on goal, while all five shots by the hosts were on goal.

“Finishing is something we have to work on,” Moore said. “We have to work on finishing and the timing of our runs. Overall, I was pleased with how we controlled the ball and kept possession.”

The Polar Bears maintained possession of the ball throughout most of the first half, but the visitors from Marion County did not have anything to show for it for more than 39 minutes of play.

Late in the half, Fairmont Senior was awarded a corner kick. Avery Towns played the ball into the box and Sansalone knocked it into the net to give the girls in the blue jerseys a 1-0 lead 30 seconds before halftime.

“It was sticky and muggy today,” Naughton said. “The girls stepped up. The midfielders have to run the longest. It had to be at least 90 degrees today, and I am wearing jeans.”

Trailing 1-0 at halftime, it took the Red Riders a little more than eight minutes into the second stanza to tie it up.

A handball by a Polar Bear defender resulted in a penalty kick for Weir. Dragonir fired a shot into the net to tie the score at 1-all with 31:50 left to play.

“Hanna played midfield for the Force, but I have kept her on defense,” Naughton said. “I saw her, and I thought Hanna could do it. She proved me right.”

The tie did not last long.

Less than three minutes later, Manchin broke through the Red Rider defense to score the Polar Bears second goal of the match. Manchin’s goal made the score 2-1 with 29:15 showing on the scoreboard clock.

“We knew there were going to be some kinks that we need to iron out,” Moore said. “We played as a team. We just have to work on the little things.”

DeLorenzo, who only allowed 15 goals last season while recording 10 shutouts, and the rest of the Fairmont Senior defense kept Weir without a goal the rest of the way.

“The girls worked hard,” Naughton said. “We had some first-game jitters. We are starting two freshmen – one in the middle and one in the back. Our back four played great. They were called offside at least 10 times which was good to see.

“We just need to work on our finishing.

“It was the first game of a long season. I am proud of the girls.”

The teams could potentially meet again down the road in the postseason. Fairmont Senior and Weir are both in West Virginia Class AA/A Region 1.

“I’d love to see them again,” Moore said. “They are in our region.”

Last year, Fairmont Senior defeated Madonna in the regional final at Jimmy Carey Stadium to advance to the state tournament. Sissonville defeated Fairmont Senior in the state semifinals and the Polar Bears finished 15-2-1

“Hopefully, we will see them down the road in the regionals,” Naughton said. “They lost to Sissonville in the state tournament last year, and Sissonville went on to win it all.”

Both teams are scheduled to return to the pitch Tuesday. Weir will play at 5:30 p.m. at Magnolia, while Fairmont Senior will play at 8 p.m. at home against Preston County. Weir’s next home game is at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against Wheeling Park.