WHEELING - Wheeling Park is starting to find its groove and that is bad news for the rest of West Virginia.
University found out just how far Wheeling Park has come Saturday as the Patriots topped the Hawks, 3-0, in the semifinals of the OVAC Cup Tournament at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Wheeling Park will go for its fifth straight OVAC Cup championship at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Wheeling Island Stadium against Morgantown.
Wheeling Park’s Braden Carroll (2) controls the ball against University’s Sven Wermuth on Saturday.
Photo by Josh Strope
University beat the Patriots a few weeks ago, but Coach Mario Julian insists this is a much different team than the one that lost, 2-1, in that match.
''They got the best of us and we knew we were better than what we played,'' Julian said. ''(Saturday), I think we demonstrated that the team is coming along and growing together. We played a complete 80 minutes.
''Before, we were trying to find ourselves and I really had to challenge them. Now they all seem to be coming together, forming our own identity. We don't give up very many goals''
Wheeling Park improved to 7-5-3 and recorded its ninth shutout.
Goalkeeper Ryan Seidewitz was rarely challenged, but did manage to make a few nice saves to keep University at bay.
Most of that was done playing with the lead as the Patriots struck early with a goal in the eighth minute.
Stanley Czahoroski sent a perfect corner kick into the middle that Eric Bonar headed past University goalkeeper Shane Thompson for a 1-0 lead.
''It was a beautiful corner kick and we work on that stuff all the time,'' Julian said. ''That is what we try to work for during a game. Eric Bonar went up higher than everyone else and put it in the back of the net.''
From there, the Patriots seized control and used crisp passing to keep the ball away from University. Playing with the lead is another thing Julian's club has gotten used to during this current run.
''We have played pretty good with the lead and earlier in the season we didn't,'' he said. ''We couldn't get some goals on some teams. We have focused so much on staying with our man on defense until the whistle blows and I think that has allowed us to play with the lead a little better.''
Wheeling Park went up 2-0 in the 67th minute as Jacob Klatt was in the right place at the right time. A shot by the Patriots' Zach Vanhorn was cleared by a Hawks defender right to the sophomore midfielder, who fired it back at the net for a two-goal advantage.
Ronnell Davis added an insurance goal three minutes later, scoring on a breakaway off a pass from Bonar.
Wheeling Park defeated Morgantown, 2-0, for its first victory. The Patriots have gone 7-2-1 since.
''I am sure they are wanting to beat us,'' Julian said. ''We beat them in the regular season but they beat us in a scrimmage. It's kind of like a rubber match for the OVAC championship. They have some nice players''