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Early goal lifts Madonna to first city championship in five years

TROPHY TIME — The Madonna girls soccer team poses with the city championship trophy after defeating Weir High 1-0 on Saturday to win the annual city game for the first time in five years. -- Aaron Petchal

WEIRTON — Big rivalry games often come with a lot of pride and bragging rights, and Saturday’s city championship match between Weir High and Madonna was no exception.

The teams battled in the annual game, the Red Riders applied constant pressure throughout the match, however, the Blue Dons netted the lone goal and held on to defeat Weir, 1-0, on a steamy Saturday morning at the J.C. Williams Soccer Complex.

The Red Riders had won the city championship the previous four seasons.

“I explained to the girls at halftime that it is about pride,” Madonna (6-3-1) head coach Bob Kolanko said. “The girls know each other. They have played soccer together. They are neighbors. They see each other out at stores. They are best friends. It is pride. We have low numbers. It was hot, and the girls were exhausted. They battled for pride.”

The lone goal came about five minutes into the match.

“We have to finish,” Weir (2-6-1) head coach Jeremy Angelo said. “We had bunnies sitting right there, and we kicked them wide. We had three inside six feet. All we had to do was to touch them in, and we kicked them wide. We hit the post five or six times. We just have to finish. The opportunities were there. And that has been our problem all year. We just struggle to finish.

“They get a corner kick, and they were able to score. There was a scrum in front of the goal. Our goalie came out to get the ball, and they kicked it into the net. They got an ugly one early. We peppered them pretty good. We had a lot of shots. We moved the ball. We created opportunities. We just can’t score. We have had trouble scoring all year.”

Ella Wingett netted the goal for the Blue Dons. Wingett, a sophomore, wears No. 3, the jersey number of former Weir soccer player Madison Crowe.

As a sophomore, Crowe played for the Red Riders in last year’s city championship game that was played last September at Jimmy Carey Stadium. Crowe and her mother — Melissa Rowland — died less than a week after last year’s game.

“That is serendipitous,” Kolanko said. “I never thought about it until (it was mentioned). It is great we were able to get the win. It is fantastic it worked out that way.

“It does (bring back memories), but it also means she is here.”

Crowe is never far from the hearts and minds of the players and coaches on either team, and both teams continue to honor Crowe. Crowe is listed on the Weir roster for this season.

This year’s outcome was disappointing for the Red Riders.

“It’s bragging rights,” Angelo said. “We did not finish. I told the girls if you lose there are consequences. They have bragging rights for a year. They are the city champions.”

The Blue Dons were focused on defense throughout the match.

“We set up to have a strong defensive squad,” Kolanko said. “We put a lot of speed on the defensive end. We gave up stuff in the middle of the field. We lost control, and we played a lot on the defensive end.”

Weir outshot Madonna, 15-2, and the Red Riders recorded seven shots on goal. Both shots by the Blue Dons were on target.

“They play you straight up,” Angelo said. “They play. They passed. It was one set piece.

“We moved. We passed. We put pressure on their defense. We kept getting chances, but we just do not score. For whatever reason, we miss the goal. Give them credit. They got a goal. They came out and worked hard.”

The offensive pressure applied by the Red Riders forced the Blue Dons into taking 17 goal kicks, while Weir only took two. The visitors held a 10-3 advantage in corner kicks.

“They did exactly what we expected them to do,” Kolanko said. “Some of the girls have seen some of their games. They have a lot of speed. They have Liv Baker up top. She is a good player. Defensively, we played with a deep sweeper. They did what we expected them to do. It was a great game. They controlled the ball on our defensive half of the field.”

The Red Riders came out strong to start the match, however, they were unable to find the back of the net. While Weir was unable to take advantage of its chances, Madonna capitalized on its first opportunity when Wingett knocked a loose ball into the back of the net giving her team a 1-0 lead.

Wingett’s older sister, Julia, played a key role in keeping the Red Riders off the scoreboard. Julia Wingett, Madonna’s goalie, made six saves en route to recording the shutout. Wingett, who was playing in goal for just the fourth time, has now recorded back-to-back shutouts.

The Blue Dons defense was led by senior standout Angelina Spickard, who was all over the field for Madonna. Spickard’s younger sister, Gabriella, tallied a save when she cleared a rolling ball from outside of the Madonna goal keeping Weir off the scoreboard.

“We talked to Julia about coming out and playing the ball at the 18,” Kolanko said. “She was super aggressive, and then Ella got the goal. The Wingett sisters did a fantastic job. The Spickard sisters did a great job in the back. Angelina played a great game. Gabriella saved that ball from rolling into the net. They had some balls hit off the post. We were lucky. Sometimes, I will take luck over anything else.”

Rayna Hoover recorded one save in goal for Weir.

“In the second half the girls on the bench kept asking how much longer,” Kolanko said. “The time went down from 25 minutes to 15 minutes to 10 minutes. In the last five minutes, things got hairy. They really made a push in the last five minutes. Then in the last 1:30, we were able to get the ball into our attacking third. We were able to hold onto the ball.”

Madonna played the match with 12 players. Earlier in the week, the Blue Dons were forced to play with only 11 players.

Weir is scheduled to play Dover at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at Crater Stadium.

Madonna, which earned the No. 2 seed, is scheduled to take on No. 3 seed Linsly in the OVAC Class 1A/3A tournament semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at home.

“We played them in the second game of the season,” Kolanko said. “I think this one is going to be a completely different game. The first time we played them we were coming off of a win against Wheeling Central. We had some injuries. We hope to get Juliana Velegol back so we can have two subs.”

The Cadets won the first meeting, 5-0.

The Blue Dons will enter the game with plenty of momentum from this past week which saw Madonna go 3-1 while outscoring the opposition, 11-2.

“We’re city champs,” Kolanko said.

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