Big Red boys soccer team falls in OT heartbreaker
NEW PHILADELPHIA — Sophomore goalkeeper J.P. Walsh has stepped up big for the Steubenville boys soccer team all season long.
Wednesday night’s Division II East 2 District semifinal match at New Philadelphia was no different. He finished with 14 saves but needed at least one more to keep Big Red’s season alive.
Walsh’s biggest block came with 14:44 remaining in regulation. He dove to his right and saved a penalty kick shot from Collin Roberts. Walsh later made another diving snag with 8:38 left and helped force the game into overtime. That came after landing hard on his leg with a little less than 10 minutes remaining and limped noticeably.
It was at the 12:53 mark that Roberts received another penalty kick. This time, he buried it in the right corner to lift third-seeded New Philadelphia to the district championship with a 3-2 victory.
The referees blew their whistles consistently throughout the match, but Big Red head coach Greg Bowers agreed with the penalty. Both squads even received a yellow card in the first half.
“It’s tough to save one twice. But, the one in the second half, there aren’t many goalies that can save that one,” Bowers said of Walsh. “His growth as a sophomore has been excellent. He made a mistake earlier in the game, but he put that behind him.”
The misplay Bowers described occurred when Elliott Warner took advantage of a high bounce off the turf at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium and punched it in. That tied the score at 1-1 with 25:20 remaining in the first half.
Big Red (8-7-3), the No. 7 seed in the tournament, responded exactly two minutes later. Mike Rook scored off a nice feed by Caleb Noble for a 2-1 advantage that lasted through halftime. Noble recorded the first goal on a header off of Andrew Neely’s direct kick.
“They pushed No. 7 (Warner) back in the midfield,” Bowers said regarding New Philadelphia’s halftime adjustment. “He’s a nice player and a first-team all-district player. He took more control of midfield in the second half, then they shifted him back up at the end of the half and in overtime.”
Steubenville hung tough for a little less than half of the second half, but the Quakers (11-5-2) broke the tie at the 20:28 mark. Nick Barker faked a direct kick and tapped it to Roberts, who buried his shot from the 30-yard line.
“He’s a senior and a very aggressive, emotional player that came up big. That was a good experience for him,” New Philadelphia coach Aaron Ramsey said. “He’s made shots before from the 20- and 30-yard lines with a knuckle ball-type kick. He’s tough for goalies, and that’s why after the game I congratulated Steubenville’s goalie. He made a lot of nice saves.”
Overall, the Quakers had two more shots on goal than Big Red. Ben Barker made 10 saves for New Philadelphia.
“We just came out very slow in pressuring the ball, and we gave Steubenville 3-4 yards to possess,” Ramsey said on his team’s halftime adjustment. “They’re a very strong team with settling it and lofting. That was killing us, so we tried to shorten that distance and put strong pressure on the ball to take their kicks away.”
Wednesday marked the final game for five Big Red seniors. They are Neely, Cole McCullough, Rook, Josh Lahr and Esteban Serna.
“Our seniors did an excellent job,” Bowers said. “Cole and (sophomore) Colin (Brice) in the back pretty much locked down No. 5 (Julio Sica-Perez). Esteban did a great job. We missed Josh (Wednesday), but he stepped up all year and made great plays.
“We put forth a great effort. I told our kids earlier (Wednesday) that we needed to give a championship effort, and they did that. We executed really well in the first half. In the second half, they (New Philadelphia) executed a little bit better. We came out in overtime and had a couple of opportunities.”
New Philadelphia will host eighth-seeded West Holmes at noon on Saturday. West Holmes stunned No. 2 seed St. Clairsville, 1-0, on Wednesday.
EAST 1 DISTRICT
In the Division II East 1 District portion, No. 10 seed Indian Creek fell to top-seeded River View, 3-1, on Wednesday. River View will host fifth-seeded Dover at 2 p.m. on Saturday. It advanced by besting No. 13 seed East Liverpool, 3-1.
The third-seeded Catholic Central girls soccer team lost in its Division III East District semifinal contest to No. 2 seed Bishop Rosecrans, 2-0, on Wednesday. The Bishops will challenge top-seeded Hiland, who bested No. 4 seed Cambridge, 7-1, at 11 a.m. on Saturday.