ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Labeled with a 7 seed and facing an undefeated Wheeling Central squad, St. Clairsville looked like anything but an underdog.
Instead, it was the Red Devils that dominated from the opening whistle, scoring four first-half goals and keeping the Maroon Knights' potent offense off the board en route to a 4-0 victory in the quarterfinals of the OVAC Cup Tournament at Red Devil Stadium.
St. Clairsville plays Brooke, a 1-0 winner against Wheeling Park, on Saturday in the semifinals at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Photo by JOSH STROPE
St. Clairsville’s Eberle Ferrell (2) works between Wheeling Central defenders Beth Stayduhar, left, and Aspen Matlock, right, as the Red Devils’ Haylee Skukan looks on.
''When you are going up against someone that is 12-0, you have to bring your 'A' game and the girls knew it,'' St. Clairsville coach Scott Dutton said. ''We knew we would have to have a big offensive game, take some chances on defense and we did, and it worked out for us.''
Coming into Thursday's contest, Wheeling Central was scoring 7.2 goals per game and had given up seven all season.
St. Clairsville jumped out front quickly with a goal in the third minute as a direct kick from deep in Red Devils territory by Haylee Skukan got behind the Wheeling Central defense and onto the foot of teammate Carlee Gillespie, who buried it past Maroon Knights keeper Regan Blaha for a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, the Red Devils (9-5) doubled the lead as Taryn Barr took advantage of the wet weather as her shot slipped out of the hands of Blaha and into the goal.
''Those were huge,'' Dutton said. ''If you are going into a game 12-0, you have to have a lot of confidence. If you get scored on within the first couple minutes, it has to be an eye-opener for you.''
Added Wheeling Central coach David Cross: ''We've been behind two or three times this season and every time we've been able to bounce back. I don't think it really made that much of a difference.
''We didn't think being behind by four goals made a difference because we knew we had the ability to score four, five, six goals in the second half. We just didn't.''
Also hindering Wheeling Central's chances was an injury to one of its top scorers in Bailey Clark. She went out midway through the first half, shortly after St. Clairsville made it 3-0 on a goal by Madison Keenan.
Gillespie added the Red Devils' final goal in the 32nd minute.
Wheeling Central managed 10 shots, but each time Red Devils keeper Brianna Sowers was there to swat it away, including two breakaways in the second half.
Often times she stood at the 25-yard line, beating Maroon Knights players to the ball and not allowing chances.
''Their goalie did a great job and our passes weren't soft enough to get the touches to get by her,'' Cross said. ''We suggested (kicking it over her) but it just didn't happen.''
Added Dutton: ''Brianna made a big difference. She comes out and has a lot of saves but she is more of a defender than a goalkeeper. Outstanding job by her.''