Weir boys handed first loss
WEIRTON — The match had a big-game feel to it.
The Weir High and Linsly boys soccer teams met Thursday night in a match-up of two of the top teams in the OVAC this season.
The game turned out to be a tale of two halves as the Cadets controlled the first half, while the Red Riders had the better of the play in the second half. Linsly netted two goals in the first half, and the Cadets withstood a late Red Rider charge en route to a 2-1 victory at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
The loss was Weir’s first of the season, and it snapped the Red Riders seven-game winning streak.
“Oh yeah,” Weir (9-1-1) head coach Matt Kopp said about the match having a big-game feel to it. “It is always close when we play Linsly. We just didn’t come out on top in this one. We will learn from this. This will help us as we go into the OVACs. We needed to see a quality team like this.”
Weir scored with less than three minutes left to play, but the Red Riders were unable to net the equalizer as Linsly came away with a hard-fought victory.
“It did have a big game feel,” Linsly (6-2-1) head coach Greg Martin said. “Weir was undefeated. We were having a pretty decent season. We only have two losses — to Morgantown and to University. We are battle-tested. We have played in some big games. Our kids rise to the moment. I had a feeling they were going to play well. Weir was undefeated. This is a fun place to play.”
Mason Cassels scored an unassisted goal for Weir.
Jonathan Howard came up big in goal for the Red Riders. Howard made 11 saves, including some key saves to keep the Cadets from extending their advantage.
“I did not know a lot about Weir,” Martin said. “I had not seen them play. I knew they have won a lot of games. Matt is a good young coach. He does a good job. The last two matches have been competitive. Weir is a fun team to play. It was a physical game. They like to knock the ball around, and so do we. No. 2 (Joe Iafrate) is a real nice player for them. He is tough to guard. He didn’t want to give him space. We did not allow him to have a lot of time with the ball.
“In the first half, I thought we had the better of the play. In the second half, they took it to us if I am being honest with you. They did a better job in the second half.”
Armen Toyserkani and Luke Lenz tallied goals for the Cadets, while Will Carson and Artem Savkov each collected an assist.
Ben Weimer made eight saves in goal for the Cadets.
“We started the game in our regular formation,” Kopp said. “After that first goal, we went to more of a defensive formation. We tired to weather the storm. In the second half, we changed formations. We moved players around. We put players in different positions. We wanted to put them in positions where they could do a good job.”
Toyserkani opened the scoring for the Cadets with a goal less than four minutes into the match as Linsly took a 1-0 lead with 36:10 left to play in the first half.
Later in the half, Lenz scored to give Linsly a 2-0 lead.
“They move the ball beautifully,” Kopp said. “They possess the ball really well. We have not seen a team possess the ball like that. They move the ball well.”
In the second half, the Cadets continued to push forward and tried to increase their advantage, but Howard and the Weir defense were up to the challenge.
The Red Riders continued to push forward as time ticked off of the stadium scoreboard, but they were stymied by Weimer and the Cadets defense. Finally, Cassels stole the ball and fired a shot into the back of the net to pull Weir to within 2-1 with 2:27 remaining to be played.
Weir continued to push forward, but they were unable to find the net again and draw even in the match.
“We continued to try and score,” Martin said. “2-0 is the worst lead in soccer. One goal by the other team and they have that belief and they are right back into it. Fortunately for us, there was about 2:30 left when they scored their goal. Had they scored with 20 minutes left, it would have been a battle to the finish.”
Thursday was the cutoff day to qualify for the annual OVAC Tournament. Both Weir and Linsly will be competing in the annual conference tournament.
“It is not the only thing we play for, but it is a big deal,” Martin said about the tournament. “We do play in a prep school tournament at the end of the season. It is a big deal for us. Anytime you get a chance to play for a trophy, it is a big deal.”
Playing Linsly right before the conference tournament will be helpful for Weir as the Red Riders compete for an OVAC championship in Class 5A.
“I am going to assess how we handle things tonight,” Kopp said. “I am going to figure how we played against them. We have not seen a team like that. We are going to learn from this.”
The Red Riders did not qualify for the OVAC Tournament last season.
“I am happy we are in the tournament this season,” Kopp said. “We get to continue to play next week and not just sit and watch matches.”
The Cadets will not play again until Linsly plays in the Class 1A/3A tournament semifinals.
The Red Riders will look to get back on track as Weir plays St. Albans at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at home.
“I do not know a lot about them, but that is not my focus,” Kopp said. “We want to move the ball. We are focused on us. We have good athletes, and I think we can compete with anyone in the state.”