Red Riders get rolling in the 2nd half, advance to OVAC final
WEIRTON — The Weir boys soccer team remains unbeaten.
Top-seeded Weir shook off a slow start in the first half against Hancock County rival and fourth-seeded Oak Glen and got things going in the second half as the Red Riders recorded a pair of goals in less than six minutes to gain some breathing room as they pulled away from the Golden Bears en route to a 6-1 victory in an OVAC Class 4A tournament semifinal on a rainy Tuesday night inside Jimmy Carey Stadium.
“It was the same story,” Weir (10-0-2) head coach Matt Kopp said. “Too many times this season we have struggled at the start of games. We have no losses in 12 games, but we have been down 1-0 in six times. You can’t afford to go down 1-0 against good teams.
“After that, we calmed down and took control of the game. We played the ball to feet. Their goalie made some good saves. They weren’t 13 easy saves.”
Weir led 2-1 at halftime, but the hosts scored four goals in the second half to break the game open.
“We have got some things to work on,” Oak Glen (3-2-1) assistant coach Dallas Brewer said. “We are going to be a different team.”
With the win, Weir will play in the OVAC final against either No. 2 seed St. Clairsville or No. 3 seed East Liverpool. The Red Devils take on the Potters in the semifinals Thursday night down at Red Devil Stadium.
“Now, we play in the finals down at St. Clairsville,” Kopp said. “From what I have heard they are one of the best No. 2 seeds in Class 4A history. We are going to go down there and play. They are going to have to beat us, and we are going to have to beat them. It is going to be a good game. It should be fun for the people to watch. It is going to be an open game. There is going to be a lot of chances.”
Mattia Molendi tallied two goals and two assists to lead the way offensively for the Red Riders. Michael Iafrate, Luiz Bastos, Hunter Hildreth and Antonio Pittman all collected a goal for the victors, while Jacob Morgan and Dante Bruno each delivered an assist.
John Wansack made one save in goal for Weir.
“We have come into our own since that game against Big Red,” Kopp said. “I think they have come a long way since that game. I have been impressed with their results since they played us.”
Stephon Polly produced an unassisted goal for Oak Glen.
Torrin Smith made 13 saves in goal for the visitors.
“I figured Oak Glen was going to play a defensive game and try to counter,” Kopp said. “That is what they did. They were able to counter and get that goal. They played a through ball, and we were not ready. We were not playing the ball to feet. We were just kicking it out of bounds. We really didn’t change anything against them. We play teams straight up. We have to make some changes later in the season.”
Molendi opened the scoring in the second half 2 minutes and 8 seconds into the stanza to give the Red Riders a 3-1 lead. Then, Iafrate found the back of the net less than four minutes later enabling the Red Riders to increase their advantage to 4-1. Hildreth and Molendi scored the final two goals for Weir.
“We play our game,” Kopp said. “A statement to the valley, some people still think we are a foreign exchange program, but we had five goal scorers in our six goals. We had two guys get assists who were not goal scorers. We are a good team. We can beat you in a lot of directions. It is not easy playing Weir.”
Oak Glen put pressure on Weir a couple of times in the second half, but they were unable to get another shot into the back of net.
“I want to wish good luck to Oak Glen in the rest of their season,” Kopp said.
The Red Riders are going to spend the next few days getting ready for the OVAC final.
“It is supposed to storm tomorrow, so we may watch some film,” Kopp said. “We played Magnolia last night, but we did not have our full team together. We are going to make sure everyone is healthy, and we are going to get everybody back together again. We are going to get some touches in before Saturday.”
In Class 1A/3A, No. 4 seed Linsly defeated No. 1 seed Wheeling Central, 3-1, in the semifinals Tuesday night on the road. The Class 1A/3A Final is scheduled for noon Saturday down at St. Clairsville.