CCHS boys score early and often, win OVAC Class 1A/3A title
WELLSBURG — The Catholic Central boys soccer team has dominated the OVAC Class 1A/3A tournament since its inception in 2014.
A fast start and a good overall performance catapulted top-seeded Catholic Central to a 7-1 victory over No. 2 seed Caldwell Saturday afternoon on Paul “Bud” Billiard Field inside Brooke Memorial Stadium.
With the victory over the Redskins, the Crusaders now have five of the seven tournament titles.
“It is always great any time you are able to win a championship,” Catholic Central (5-3-2) head coach Steve Kopcha said. “It is an honor for us to be in the position. It is an honor for us to represent our division and our school. It was a good hard-fought game today against Caldwell.”
Catholic Central previously captured the conference championship from 2015-17, as well as last season.
“The kids are very excited,” Kopcha said. “You always want to play for a championship and win it. This is a really big deal for our soccer program, for our school and for the valley.”
While Catholic Central has won five tournament titles, Caldwell was playing in its first conference final.
“It means everything,” Caldwell (4-5) head coach Michael Ontko said. “This is the first time we have been in a final game in anything in soccer. It says a lot. I could not be more proud of our program. When I started here, we had 11 players my first year. We barely had any subs.”
Michael Lee tallied a hat trick and an assist to lead the way for the Crusaders. David Kissinger collected two goals, Anthony Venditti contributed a goal and an assist and Michael Duff finished with a goal. Joseph Rhode delivered an assist.
Catholic Central used two goalies. Leon Zaleski started in the net and made one save before being replaced during the second half by Jacob Kissinger, who did not have to make a save.
Jacob Ramsey recorded the lone goal for the Redskins off of an assist by Jaume Mas. Cody Welch made four saves in goal.
This was the second meeting between the two schools. Catholic Central defeated Caldwell, 5-1, earlier this season at home.
“We had a chance to see them earlier this year, so we knew what to expect coming in,” Kopcha said. “We were able to go off of that. We knew they were going to work hard, we knew they were going to play extremely hard and that is what they did. Give a lot of credit to Caldwell. They showed up and played hard until the end of the game.”
The Crusaders scored four goals less than 14 minutes into the match, as they were able to take control early from the opening whistle.
Lee opened the scoring with his first goal coming a little more than two minutes in as he found the back of the net, giving the Crusaders a 1-0 lead with 37:58 remaining left in the first half.
Lee’s goal was followed by goals from David Kissinger and Duff to increase Catholic Central’s advantage to 3-0. Lee capped the Crusaders’ scoring in the first half when he collected his second goal to extended his team’s advantage to 4-0 with 26:39 left to play in the first half.
“I think the atmosphere and the nerves got to us,” Ontko said. “We have a young team. We have never been in this environment before. I think we were overwhelmed.”
Caldwell capped the scoring in the first half late in the half. Ramsey ripped a shot into the net, pulling his team to within 4-1 with 3:24 still to play in the half.
“There were times when they were able to possess the ball and were able to create chances for themselves,” Kopcha said. “We were forced to communicate and to talk. We had to move our legs and get to some open spaces. We were able to possess the ball that way.”
David Kissinger, Venditti and Lee all produced goals in the second half, as Catholic Central pulled away for the victory.
“We are coming along,” Kopcha said. “We were dealing with some injuries early in the year. We are starting to heal up. We are getting guys set in their positions, and we are working better as a team. I like the way we have been playing. Now, we want to finish the season off strong against some quality opponents. We definitely want to put forth a strong showing the rest of the season.”
Thanks to the win, the Crusaders were able to accomplish one of their main goals this season.
“At the beginning of the season, our goal was to win an OVAC championship,” Kopcha said. “Linsly and Wheeling Central are tough competition throughout the year. We knew going into this season that there were going to be some bumps in the road. It is unfortunate that one of those bumps came at the wrong time for them. That opened the door for us. We wanted to represent our school and our division the best we can. We are fortunate to be here. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to participate this season.”
Prior to the start of the match, following an announcement, a moment of silence was held in memory of Madison Crowe and Melissa Rowland. The Weirton natives were tragically killed on Thursday.
“It has definitely been rough,” Kopcha said. “Weir girls’ coach Jeremy Angelo is a friend of mine. You never want to see something like that happen to someone young. One positive is the OVAC soccer community is very strong and it is offering our support to the family. There are a lot of well wishes for the family, for Weir High and for their soccer family. We are going to support them the best we can.”
Ontko said he did not know about Crowe and Rowland prior to coming to Brooke.
“I was not aware of what happened,” he said. “My heart goes out to them. It is tough when something like that happens to someone so young. It is a real tragedy when things like that happen. They have our prayers.”
Caldwell: Hosts Monroe Central on Monday.
Catholic Central: Hosts Edison on Tuesday.