Madonna scores seven second-half goals to pull away from Steubenville Central

WEIRTON — The annual rivalry match between the Madonna and Catholic Central girls’ soccer teams turned into a game of kick and run.

The Blue Dons and Crusaders attempted to play long ball through the other team’s defense, enabling their forwards to run onto the ball as they headed toward the goal.

Central led by one at halftime, but Madonna netted five goals less than 10 minutes into the second half and pulled away for a 9-3 victory Monday evening at the J.C. Williams Soccer Complex.

“I don’t know,” Madonna (5-6) head coach Bob Kolanko said when asked what changed for his team after halftime. “I really don’t know. I wish I knew. I would give you money if you could tell me. I don’t know if it was something I said at halftime.

“We did not have good possession. We did not possess the ball in the first half. Defensively, we were so flat-footed. We didn’t run. Give Allie (Zapolink) credit. She found the gaps in our defense, and she exploited those gaps numerous times.”

The Crusaders played well in the first half, but Central was not able to keep up with Madonna in the second 40 minutes of play.

“We capitalized on the opportunities that we had,” Central (3-9) head coach Katrina Fabian said. “We played with a lot of hustle and effort, and we won the 50-50 balls. We supported each other. We talked a lot. We communicated.”

Offensively, MaKayla Virden tallied five goals and an assist to lead the way for the Blue Dons, while Kali Krynicki collected three goals and an assist. Shannon Westfall finished with a goal and three assists, and Miah LeFever recorded two assists. Kasey Canei made four saves in goal.

“Madonna always has a pretty decent team,” Fabian said. “They don’t always have a lot of numbers, but they have quality over quantity.”

Zapolnik produced two goals for the Crusaders, and Ali Grimm added one. Christine Dombrowski delivered an assist. Brie DeChristopher recorded 16 saves in goal.

“Catholic Central always plays with a lot of passion and aggressiveness,” Kolanko said. “Even when they don’t have a strong team, they always come out and play hard. They did that today. They played well in the first half. They were in the game in the first half. They beat us to the ball, and they had opportunities. They played really, really well.”

Virden opened the scoring three minutes in to give Madonna a 1-0 lead, but Zapolnik tied the score at when she scored about three minutes later.

Zapolnik’s second goal gave the Crusaders a 2-1 advantage near the midway point of the first half.

Westfall scored to knot the score at 2 with about three minutes left to play before halftime. Grimm, though, gathered a loose ball inside the penalty box and sent a shot into the goal to give Central a 3-2 lead in the waning seconds of the half.

The second half belonged to the Blue Dons. Madonna outscored the Crusaders 7-0 to rally for the win.

“They came out with a new fire for sure,” Fabian said. “They had a strong desire to score. That was evident. We did not return it.”

Krnyicki opened the scoring three minutes in, and then she added her second goal of the half about a minute later to give the Blue Dons a 4-3 lead. They Dons pulled away from that point.

“Our defense woke up in the second half,” Kolanko said.

“It didn’t change our offense. The team got fired up. Our passing in the attacking third of the field was the best it has been in a couple of years. The girls were able to find space, and we played the ball to space. That was exciting to see.”

The Blue Dons played with only 11 players available. About 14 minutes into the first half, Madonna had to take a player off of the field due to an injury. Instead of playing a player up, Fabian took out one of her players, so the game was played 10-on-10.

“I cannot commend their coach enough,” Kolanko said. “We were down to 10 players, and she quickly pulled one of her players. I told her she did not have to play with 10 players on our account, but she did that. She showed a great amount of sportsmanship. That is something we need to see more of. I have nothing but respect for her. She gained a lot of respect from our players, from our fans and from our coaches.”

Central is scheduled to play again at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Big Red at home.

“It’s the city championship,” Fabian said. “We are playing Big Red. It is our senior night. It should be a good game.”

Madonna is scheduled to play again at 6 p.m. Thursday at Oak Glen.

“Any time you beat a rival is nice,” Kolanko said. “They are in our class in the OVAC, and the OVACs are coming up next week. It is a good rivalry. The girls know each other from playing travel soccer. It is a friendly rivalry. The girls are friends. It was a good game.”