Christiansen, University Stun Wheeling Park
All-stater’s goal in final seconds is the winner
WHEELING — Wheeling Park is replacing eight starters. University is replacing seven.
Despite mostly brand-new teams, two things remained constant: the game is still as exciting as ever and the Hawks still continue to be a thorn in the Patriots’ side.
Ari Christiansen’s header with 30 seconds remaining broke a scoreless tie as University stunned Wheeling Park in girls soccer action Tuesday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“What a fabulous high school game and if you are in the stands, how can you not be entertained by that?” University co-coach Graham Peace said. “It was a heartbreaker for Wheeling Park, I actually feel sorry for them. They played a great game and it should have been a draw, but we got the big break in the end.”
And what a break it was.
As always, it was an evenly matched game between two of the top programs in West Virginia.
Even with new faces on the pitch, this match came down to the final seconds.
With University (4-0-1) charging hard to make something happen, the Hawks forced a corner kick.
Kassidy Wolfe’s perfect ball into the box was up for grabs, but it was the Hawks’ senior leader that made the big play.
The second team all-stater leaped high into the air and was able to head the ball into the corner and past Wheeling Park goalkeeper Deanna Crumm with less than a minute remaining.
Christiansen’s Hawks teammates swarmed her and the seconds ticked off the clock of another heartbreaking loss for the Patriots (3-2) against their regional rivals.
“They got us in the OVACs last year, but this has been a tremendous rivalry,” Peace said. “It is two outstanding programs. Gracelynn (Hanna) up top, for a sophomore, is just a superstar. I wish we could play them every week. I love playing them.
“That was a huge goal and we pride ourselves on set pieces. Ari is phenomenal in the air and Kass played a beautiful cross to her and she happened to get open and put it in. She finished it. She is deadly.”
For Wheeling Park coach Carrie Hanna, it was just another growing pain for her young, but talented, team.
“It is always a battle with University and I think in the end, their senior leadership took over and our youth showed,” Hanna said. “It was a corner that we gave up that we didn’t need to give up. They rallied and we did some things across the board that gave them a free look at our goal and a player like Ari Christiansen is going to bury it every time.”
The loss stops a two-game winning streak in which Wheeling Park posted shutout victories against Brooke and Grafton.
Now it is back to the drawing board for a four-game road trip that begins Thursday at Morgantown.
“We have a lot of talent and we came out of the gate with a lot of chemistry, beating the defending state champs (Cabell Midland, 4-1), but since then, I don’t know if that was overconfidence and not realizing we have to work at it every day,” Hanna said. “We have to get back to what we were in preseason and get back to doing the things to get our chemistry going again.
“That composure comes with time and experience. We have a lot of young players that need to grow up a little faster.”
Despite taking the loss, Crumm had four saves, including one at point blank range that kept the Patriots in the match. Corinne Grabow made four saves for the Hawks.