Together We Care soccer tournament

Central boys, Creek girls win as money is raised for local charity

HONORING — The Steubenville boys soccer team releases balloons to honor people affected by cancer on Saturday. -Andrew Grimm

STEUBENVILLE — The Together We Care soccer event has become a tradition in early October, with Jefferson County’s boys and girls soccer teams squaring off.

While the teams are rivals on the field, the event is bigger than soccer, as it raises money for local cancer charity.

This year’s version of the event, the seventh annual, had a new director and a new charity as the recipient, but was as successful as ever at Harding Stadium on Saturday.

“I took over for Rhonda Clevenger who had done it for the first six years, and she helped direct me,” event director Lori Barnhouse said. “It’s good to see the support from the communities and the schools. It’s nice for the kids to be able to join in and see that it’s about more than soccer. It’s for a great cause, and it’s heart warming.

“It’s become a tradition. It has raised over $118,000 in the last six years. It’s been a great thing.”

Proceeds from the event will go to Cancer Dietary Initiative, a Steubenville-based charity that provides meals to cancer patients and their families.

“They are a food pantry that gives out monthly food donations to cancer patients that are undergoing treatment,” Barnhouse said. “They are very excited to get this because they are mostly self-funded. It is a really good organization. We had done it for the Tear Fund the last six years and decided to spread it around. We knew about the CDI, and they are a direct patient contact. Some of the schools already participate with their distribution process, so some of the kids have seen this charity first-hand.”

The event has a special meaning to the coaches, especially Edison boys’ Andy Lesnansky.

“This event is very close to my heart, my mother (Marlene Lesnansky) is a breast cancer survivor,” he said. “She is actually working a table. For as long as an event like this takes place, we’ll be a part of it. It’s amazing to help out CDI and everybody else involved.”

Game 1

In the opener, the Edison girls were in control the entire way, en route to a 3-0 victory over Catholic Central.

“I’m very happy,” Edison head coach Jordan Tice said. “We have been working hard on communicating, making good passes and connecting and it all came together.

“The girls love being a part of it. I’m glad this opportunity is available to us to represent our school for a great cause.”

Maddie Brenstuhl opened the scoring midway through the first half, then Gracie Dennis made it a 2-0 Wildcats (3-10-1) lead on a long free kick. That was the score at halftime.

Brenstuhl added her second of the game to make it 3-0 with under 20 minutes to play in the second half and all but put the game away.

“I thought we played,” Central (0-12-3) head coach Jonathan Hoover said. “They got a couple of good goals in the first half … they kept the pressure up in the second half and got another one to put the dagger to us at the end.

“I think it’s a great event that the schools put on every year. It’s a great opportunity for the girls. It started when they were in middle school and has continues on. It’s great it gives back to a local foundation.”

Central’s Liz Bolster and and Edison’s Holly Valentine were selected as game MVPs by the opposing coaches and presented plaques.

Game 2

Catholic Central’s boys team claimed the Traveling Trophy with a 4-1 win in the second game of the day.

Tom Beigel did all of the scoring for Central (8-2-2), scoring twice in each half.

“He’s a special player,” Central head coach Steve Kopcha said of Beigel. “We’re lucky to have him on our team.

“It’s very important for us to be a part of and very special event. It’s important for the kids and community to be involved in raising awareness for such a great cause.”

He had a goal early in each half. Andrew Neely scored a late goal for Big Red (6-7).

“We got behind the eight ball right off the bat,” Big Red head coach Greg Bowers said. “We didn’t execute well. We can’t give up a goal one minute into each half and expect to mount a comeback. They are a good team.

“It puts things in prospective. There are bigger things in life than soccer. It’s great that all the schools come together to support the community.”

Beigel and Neely were named MVPs.

Game 3

Indian Creek’s boys team defeated Edison in the next game, 3-0, though it was a battle all the way through.

“Both teams played hard,” Indian Creek head coach Chuck Brettell said. “This is a nice rivalry. Edison is a program on the rise and I told the kids we better show up to play today. It wasn’t easy. We had to earn everything.

“This event is great. No matter who wins or loses today, everybody leaves here feeling good about the event because everybody has been touched by cancer. We told the kids all week that was the focus.”

Unai Leon opened the scoring, then Vitalli Amis and Elijah Llewellyn added goals for the Redskins (7-5-2).

Lesnansky was happy with the way his Wildcats (4-10) showed improvement.

“I’m always happy when my team plays hard and they battle — and I saw that today,” he said. “I saw all the pieces come together, we just didn’t finish. Indian Creek is a well-rounded team, I have to give them credit.”

Edison’s Carter Montgomery and Indian Creek’s Gunnar Brettell were MVPs.

Game 4

The nightcap saved the best for last, as Indian Creek and Big Red’s girls teams battled for the Jefferson County championship.

In an intense game that at times felt like a state tournament meeting, the Redskins edged out a 2-1 win.

“It was a great game, on both sides the girls played hard,” Indian Creek head coach Joe Lewis said. “We didn’t see them in the regular season, so this made up our regular season game as well. Both teams really wanted to win.

“It’s a great thing. This makes so much money for local cancer organizations which is great. All the kids come together and help in the stands and to have all the local teams playing in one tournament is a fun day.”

Abby Copeland opened the scoring early in the second half for a 1-0 Indian Ceek (10-5) lead, then with under 20 minutes to play Mary Marshall tied the game for Big Red (8-5-1). Just over a minute later, Copeland struck again for the what ended up being the winning goal.

“Anytime a team scores on you, you want to get that momentum right back,” Lewis said. “Copeland stepped up and got it done.”

Big Red had several close chances to tie it again, but could not find the equalizer.

“It just wasn’t our night,” Big Red head coach Jared Robinson said. “We knew what kind of game they were going to play and we knew it was going to be a challenge to score. We had our opportunities, we just couldn’t finish and they finished off of the opportunities they were given.

“The event means a lot. It is something the girls look forward to every year. It’s a good cause that we come together and play for. I think it’s a good tradition.”

Copeland and Mila Gulan were named MVPs.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)