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Serna’s early goal, strong defensive effort power Big Red boys to sectional title

STEUBENVILLE — Big Red needed just one goal to claim another sectional title.

Esteban Serna scored from long range less than three minutes into the match, and J.P. Walsh and the defense made it stand up, as the No. 7 seed Steubenville boys soccer team defeated No. 12 seed John Glenn, 1-0, in a Division II Eastern District sectional final Saturday evening on Reno Field inside Harding Stadium.

“It is important to score early,” Big Red (8-6-3) head coach Greg Bowers said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. They kept coming. John Glenn has a good squad. We did enough to advance.”

With the win, Big Red will now play No. 2 seed New Philadelphia in the district semifinals Wednesday night on the road. New Philadelphia advanced by dispatching No. 16 seed Minerva, 4-1, Saturday afternoon at home.

The unassisted goal came 2:34 into the match. Walsh finished the day with nine saves, including multiple key saves, to keep the Little Muskies off of the scoreboard.

“J.P. has been playing really well the last several weeks,” Bowers said. “He has come into his own at the end of his sophomore year. He made some big saves. Cole McCullough, Josh Zeiler, Anthony Shevlin and Theo Loot played great defense. They limited John Glenn’s chances.”

Ryan House recorded four saves in goal for John Glenn.

Steubenville out-shot the Little Muskies, 15-11, but John Glenn had the advantage in shots on goal, 9-5. 

“We watched film on them,” Bowers said. “We knew No. 10 (Austin Driggs) was their target up top. They ran their offense through him. We did a good job of limiting their chances.”

John Glenn stepped up their offensive pressure in the second half, and the Little Muskies had multiple good scoring opportunities, but Walsh and the Big Red defense denied them each time.

“They started to push forward, so we pulled back,” Bowers said. “We kept a solid backline. We were hoping to get the ball through their defense for an insurance goal, but we did a good job of limiting their chances at the net.”

Big Red had chances throughout the match to increase its advantage, but the hosts were unable to convert. Big Red had one shot hit off the post. 

Steubenville had a 5-2 advantage in corner kicks.

“We told the kids when we started back in late May and early June we were going to do our best to make sure they had a season,” Bowers said. “They have made the most of the opportunity to play. We told them as long as they want to play, we will keep coaching them. They did enough today to keep playing.”

The Quakers present a challenge for Big Red to overcome.

“They possess the ball well,” Bowers said. “They play a good style of soccer. They are well skilled. We know if we go out there and play the way we are capable we will give ourselves a chance to win.”

Big Red’s victory enabled them to claim another sectional title after falling to East Liverpool, 1-0, in the final last season.

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