Oak Glen girls capture fourth straight OVAC title
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — It’s tough to win one championship. It’s even tougher trying to defend that title. When a team has won three straight crowns, it has a bullseye on its back while seeking a fourth.
However, that was no problem for Oak Glen (8-2).
Saturday afternoon at sun-splashed Red Devil Stadium, the No. 2 seeds made it back-to-back-to-back-to-back OVAC Class 4A soccer tournament titles when they upset top-seeded St. Clairsville, 5-1. It marked the third time in the four years — and second straight — that the Red Devils (8-2-1) found themselves on the short end in the title tilt. Oak Glen defeated Beaver Local two years ago on penalty kicks.
Head coach Ryan Wells stopped short of referring to his program as a dynasty.
“That’s not for us to say,” he said while sporting a slight smile from behind his COVID-19 mask. “We always talk about consistency and being relevant every year in the OVACs and the West Virginia state tournament. I think because of the senior leadership we’ve had since my first year here, we’ve been able to do that. You don’t want to fluctuate up and down. You want to be consistent every year. You want to be the dominant team with the target on your back every year. I tell the girls that is a great spot to be in and they’ve shouldered it really well when you gave everyone gunning for you.”
Back-to-back-to-back-to-back sounds pretty good, though.
“You like to win them all, and this senior class has won four in a row. So, from their freshmen year on, they’ve done what it takes,” Wells said.. “We’ve talked about that. They see this as another stepping stone to the state (W.Va. Class AA tournament). We prepare a certain way for OVACs, and then we kind of flip a switch and get ready for regional and the state.
“These girls are a different kind of team. They are not stat-driven at all. The one stat that we do talk about is the scoreboard. We just keep on plugging away … doing the little things. It’s all the small things that led to this win. It was nothing big.”
It didn’t take long for the focused Golden Bears to strike.
Senior standout Reese Enochs found the net in the first minute (29 seconds in). The goal would be the first of her hat trick.
Chasing the ball as it rolled into the St. Clairsville box, Enochs collected the it after it was misplayed and banged it into an empty net from down deep in the right wing.
“You can’t put yourself in a hole like that against a team like Oak Glen,” St. Clairsville head coach Wes Stoner said. “They are well-coached and have skill and speed everywhere. I guess we just weren’t ready to play in the first 30 seconds. Nothing against that goal, but we should have never let that one in. The other four were legitimate.”
Enochs made it 2-0 in the fifth minute when she lofted the ball towards the net from just outside the top of the box. It sailed just under the crossbar and over the outstretched fingers of leaping St. Clairsville goalkeeper Jaeda Nowak.
Brooklyn Watts, who recorded a trio of assists, sent a shot from deep on the right wing that Nowak batted away. The rebound hit the post to Nowak’s left and caromed to the right foot of Enochs, who did the rest for her 134th career net-finder.
“She’s a stud. She’s just a stud,” Wells said. “Reese has even started to focus on other aspects of the game. The offensive part of her game comes naturally, she is a scorer and she’s going to be a scorer in college. She’s the type of player that is going to be able to contribute at the collegiate level right away.
“She’s a quiet leader, but the way she finishes on a consistent basis is amazing. But, her defense has gotten better and her passing has gotten a lot better. She’s just a tremendous all-around player.”
Watts sent a beautiful cross to Brooklyn Loveland late in the 19th minute, and Loveland sent it past a diving Nowak with her right foot for a 4-0 reading.
St. Clairsville avoided being shutout when freshman Delaney Florence knocked home a rebound after Oak Glen goalkeeper Alexus Greenlief denied Emily Thompson’s shot.
Greenlief finished with five saves, while Nowak was called upon to make 11.
Despite the loss, the season is far from over for the the Red Devils.
“There’s something to be said about even making it to this game,” Stoner said. “Nothing against anyone else, and losing stinks, but just being in this championship game means a lot, and we’ve got a lot of soccer left to play.”
Already playing with senior standout Macy Malin, who is out for the season after knee surgery, the Red Devils got a little more banged up Saturday, as Megan Malin was an early exit. Alyssa Bodkin and Nowak also were shaken up but later returned.
“We’ve got too many girls banged up right now. We have several ankles and one with a rib injury,” Stoner said. “We already had a couple of girls nursing bangs and bruises, but not we got a few more.”
St. Clairsville will host Weir High Monday at 6 p.m. A special ceremony is planned, according to Stoner.
• A moment of silence was held prior to each of the three games Saturday at Red Devil Stadium for Weir sophomore Madison Crowe, who was tragically killed on Thursday with her mother.
“We have some younger girls that played travel ball with Madison,” Wells said. “We played with some heavy hearts Thursday night, even some tears. We had some girls show up really upset. We know the Weirton community is strong … Hancock County strong with one another. We’ll get through it.”