Crusaders head to OVAC 1A/3A final after defeating Caldwell
STEUBENVILLE — The Steubenville Catholic Central boys’ soccer team controlled the ball and the game against Caldwell.
The top-seeded Crusaders scored multiple goals in each half en route to a 5-0 victory over the No. 4 Redskins in an OVAC Class 1A/3A semifinal Monday evening at the Tony Recinella Soccer Field.
“We had a good number of shots today,” Central (9-2) head coach Steve Kopcha said. “Unfortunately, we had a lot go over the goal or that were too wide, but we did create a lot of opportunities. Our finishing touch just was not there.”
This is the first year Caldwell has qualified for the annual conference tournament. They just ran into a good team in the semifinals. Central outshot Caldwell, 34-2.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Caldwell (4-4-1) head coach Michael Ontko said. “They are definitely another class of team. They are a very experienced team. This is my first year coaching. We have got a lot to learn.”
Central will play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between No. 2 seed Linsly and No. 3 seed Wheeling Central in the tournament final at 2 p.m. Saturday at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville. The Crusaders defeated the Cadets in the finals in each of the last two years.
Ethan Moore recorded a pair of goals for the Crusaders, while Joe Kuebler, Dante Asci and Matthew Duff all finished with one. Joe Zinno ended up with two assists. Travis Shore made two saves in goal.
“They have a lot of experienced people,” Ontko said. “They knew where to be. They kept their formation. They are probably the toughest team we have played this year.
“In the first half, we kept our of philosophy of staying in a defensive shell. We only had one sub, so I think we got tired quickly. We could have done better. We might have been a little bit intimidated.”
Sean Rataiczak recorded 12 saves for the Redskins.
“They are in the OVAC, and they are also in the Eastern District with us,” Kopcha said. “We saw them a couple of years ago in the state tournament. This is their first time qualifying for (the tournament). They have made a big improvement. We fully expected them to come out and play hard, and that is exactly what they did.”
Making the tournament for the first time means a lot to the co-ed Caldwell program.
“Success brings more support, and it usually brings more players,” Ontko said. “People want to play for a successful program. Making the tournament this year in my first year will help grow the program.
Central collected two goals in the first half and three in the second half. The Crusaders bounced back after a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Big Red on Saturday.
“We had to,” Kopcha said. “One of our goals is to win an OVAC championship, and to do that we had to come out of here with a win. We had to focus. We definitely wanted to win this game so we would have a chance to make it back to the OVAC Final.”
Central and Linsly have played in the finals in each of the last three seasons. The Cadets won the championship three years ago.
“Wheeling Central is one of the teams to make it to the tournament this year,” Kopcha said. “It is nice to see different teams make the tournament. It is nice to see teams improving. It is good to see different teams.”
The Cadets defeated the Maroon Knights 8-0 on Aug. 23 on the road.
“We have seen Wheeling Central, and we have heard about Linsly,” Kopcha said. “This is Linsly’s time of the season. We fully expect them to play extremely well. They always want to win a championship.
“Linsly and Wheeling Central have already played this season. We are going to see how the game turns out on Wednesday. No matter who wins, they are going to be a difficult challenge for us.”
The time of the final may change depending on how the other semifinals go in the boys and girls tournaments.
“We are going to practice the rest of the week,” Kopcha said. “We are going to have a lot of practice. We have a lot of things we can get better at and improve on. We are going to work on our shooting, our passing and our possession. We are going to work on the stuff we normally work on during the season. We want to stay sharp.”
Caldwell is currently scheduled to play Parkersburg Catholic at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at home.