Crusaders advance in OVAC tournament

PASSING THROUGH — Catholic Central’s Tom Beigel passes in-between Caldwell’s Andrew Bjork, left, and Chaz Virant on Monday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — On a day better suited for swimming at the Tony Recinella Soccer Field, the Catholic Central boys soccer team took advantage of sloppy conditions against Caldwell in an OVAC semifinal match on Monday.

The Crusaders also had some fun along the way and eliminated the Redskins, 9-1, from the Class 1A/3A tournament. A five-goal spurt in less than five minutes midway through the first half was more than enough.

“It was just a matter of us working on our skills and relying on our skills in weather like this,” Central coach Steve Kopcha said. “We did hit that spurt where we were continually being patient and looking for scoring opportunities. That opened up the game for us.”

Deadlocked at 1-1, top-seeded CCHS (7-2-1) took a one-goal advantage with 16:54 left in the first half. Tom Beigel placed a perfect corner kick to Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and he headed the ball to the back of the net.

Just 37 seconds later, Beigel assisted another score — this time to Kolbe Rice — for a 3-1 lead. A little more than one minute after that, Gian Asci scored off an assist by Ethan Moore. Fans saw two more Central goals in the next two minutes, the first from Moore (assisted by Joseph Rohde) and the last from Rice.

The Crusaders led 7-1 at halftime.

“Our defense just didn’t mark very well,” Caldwell coach Michael Ontko said. “They made runs without marking. Our defense slacked off there, and I don’t know why.

“They’re always a tough team to play. Good luck to them. They’re always a class act, and I hope they do well.”

Ten minutes into the second half, Matthew Duff scored for the Crusaders off an assist by Christian Lesnefsky. David Kissinger closed the scoring late in the contest.

Field conditions did not seem to bother Central right from the start, especially for Beigel. He scored the game’s first goal off an assist from Gonzalez just 26 seconds in.

“Something we always try to do is quick starts to the game and the second half,” Kopcha said. “We want to come prepared to play and get off to a good start as quick as possible.”

The Redskins (5-3-1), though, did not go away that easily. Roughly seven minutes after Central scored first, Fernando Onate’s penalty kick found the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1.

Home field advantage played to Central’s advantage in the first half, playing on the dryer side of the field rathern than the sloppier portion that Caldwell defended.

“The one side of the field was a little better than the other,” Kopcha said. “Regardless, we knew we might have one good half and one bad half. We were able to take advantage in the first half.”

“Both teams had to play in it. It was equal play, but sometimes you get that and sometimes you don’t,” Ontko said. “It definitely made it difficult to play in and pass the ball.”

Travis Shore made four saves in goal for the Crusaders, while Caldwell’s Matt Kowalsky made 20.

Catholic Central defends its 1A/3A title at noon on Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium. They will face Linsly, who defeated Wheeling Central, 3-1.

“I told (Ontko) congratulations on making (the tournament) again,” Kopcha said. “He’s building some strong consistency in their program that they’re trying to develop and maintain and even get better from year to year. It’s a credit to him that they were able to advance again this year from the strength of their development.”