Big Red girls sneak by Central

BIG RIVALRY — Steubenville’s Gabriella Lulla and Catholic Central’s Allie Zapolnik battle for possession of the ball on Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

STEUBENVILLE — Steubenville’s two teams squared off Wednesday night at Catholic Central’s Tony Recinella Soccer Field, and it was visiting Steubenville Big Red who came away with a 2-0 victory in the rivalry game.

“It’s always nice,” Big Red coach Jared Robinson said. “We’ve been close every single year. This year it’s nice to break through and get the W, especially for the seniors who have been playing against them for four years. A ‘W’ is a ‘W.’ We’ll take it however we can get it.

“We’re still nursing some girls back from injury. We’ve got a lot of girls getting playing time, and the girls who stepped up in those positions today did a very good job.”

Jadyn Bennett registered a goal and an assist, and Zoe Nocera made two saves in goal for Big Red (5-3-1).

“We’re still improving,” Robinson said. “Whenever you have girls out due to injury you have to move people around, and it messes with chemistry. Our girls did a good job of keeping their heads on straight and staying focused. Overall I’m very pleased with the victory.”

For the Crusaders (3-10), head coach Katrina Fabian was pleased with the effort and performance despite coming up short on the scoreboard.

“I am so very proud of my girls,” she said. “This is best game they have played this entire season. They didn’t get down on themselves. They kept rallying the entire time. They fought hard every single second of this game.”

Bennett opened the scoring in the sixth minute, gathering in the loose ball after a Jordan Sarjeant attempt was denied and putting it home for a 1-0 lead.

Central picked up the pressure but struggled to get anything toward the net. Big Red counter attacked and made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute when Bennett connected with Stef-Mikel Blackburn on a pass across the field and behind the Central defense, and she didn’t miss.

The Crusaders kept the pressure on for most of the second half, forcing Steubenville to defend, and they did so very well, making it hard for Central to get shots.

“Hats off to them; they don’t have any quit,” Robinson said of Central. “That’s what this type of game brings out of people. I give them a lot of credit. They put the pressure on, but my defense stood tall.”

With goalkeeper Bri DeChristopher keeping them in the game with 10 saves, the Crusaders did have chances, including three near misses by Allie Zapolnik, but were never able to connect.

“It was just unlucky really,” Fabian said. We had a lot of shots and a lot of opportunities that we took, but it just wasn’t connecting. Allie is a great player, she really is. She’s got a lot of drive and a lot of motivation. She’s one of the seniors and one of our two captains.”

It was Central’s senior night, something Fabian said was bittersweet.

“The emotions don’t really hit you until afterward,” she said. “It’s bittersweet for sure. I only really got to spend a short amount of time with these girls because it’s my first year but they have impacted me so much.”

Big Red is back in action Saturday at Philo. The Crusaders are next in action Tuesday in the first round of the OVAC tournament.