Wheeling Park Girls Out To Prove Themselves as Patriots Start Season 2-0
Patriots Have Outscored First Two Opponents, 16-2
WHEELING — The Wheeling Park girls soccer team is off and running.
The Patriots opened the season Friday with an 11-1 triumph over host Indian Creek and followed that up with a 5-1 victory over Winfield on Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Park enters the season after suffering the sting of a shootout loss to Hurricane in the state championship and is out to prove themselves.
“I think with the 11 seniors that we have this year and where we finished last year — this team is very, very hungry,” Park coach Carrie Hanna said. “We’ve been at this for a few years and they’ve bought into the system — what we call ‘Park Principles of Play’ and our ‘Patriot Path’ — they’ve bought into it.
“It’s a veteran group teaching the young ones. Everybody has played on both days and everybody who goes in — you can’t tell a difference in their style of play and for me that’s phenomenal — to see seniors not only doing it themselves but also teaching the younger ones alongside them.”
Both contests started off the same way — corner kicks off the foot of Morgan Stauver.
On Friday, Stauver fired a corner to senior Emma Delk, who finished with a netter. On Saturday, same story. This time it was Faith Mealy who hauled in the corner from Stauver and gave Park a 1-0 edge 31 seconds into the action.
Not long after, Winfield knotted the contest with a counter goal — it’s only goal of the afternoon.
“We made some adjustments after we got scored on,” Hanna said. “Winfield is always a strong program and we got caught on the counter attack. We are susceptible to the counter because we are a possession and a very attacking team, so we have to learn how to not give up counter goals.
“We made some adjustments in the second half and did a much better job of defending.”
Junior standout Gracey Hanna put the Patriots back on top for good at 22:30 when she rebounded a penalty kick from Delk and found the back of the net.
Delk assisted on the next goal, as well, finding senior Abbey Anderson who connected for a 3-1 advantage at recess.
The Patriots came out of the break as quick as they started the match. Mealy sent a stellar cross pass to Delk, who fired a header through the pipes for her fourth goal in two days.
“We started the second half the same way as we started the match,” Coach Hanna said. “We finished right away. I think we’re coming out to send a message about who Wheeling Park is.”
Mealy wrapped up the scoring with a breakaway goal on an assist from Abbey Anderson. It was also Mealy’s fourth goal of the young season.
Outscoring its first two opponents 16-2 is a good sign for Park fans but the team’s defenders are striving for perfection.
“We’re all about possessing, combining and creating,” Coach Hanna said. “We made a few adjustments even though we made it all the way to the state final — it wasn’t quite good enough.
“We actually shifted Abby Barki, who played center mid and scored in the state final to put it into overtime, to outside back and we slid senior Annalese Aderholt to center back with senior Daisy (Reasbeck). I think we needed a really strong back four and they’re not happy even giving up the two goals they did in two games. They said their goal is to make sure they get clean sheets and shutouts.”
Senior goalie Jillian Blair was strong in her season debut, stopping five shots and adding seven saves on Saturday.
“We graduated three seniors,” Coach Hanna said. “Two of them were outside backs and one was our goalkeeper. Jill Blair is stepping up in goal and is doing a phenomenal job.”
Hurricane 1, Wheeling Park 0
HURRICANE — In an opening-game battle of two of the state’s top AAA teams, Hurricane used a lucky bounce to score the lone goal of the match and top Wheeling Park.
Redskins goalkeeper Nick Eskins stopped all four of the Patriots’ shots on goal.
The winning goal came four minutes into the second half, when two Park players misjudged a free-kick that led to Hurricane’s Drake Lester heading the ball over keeper Zach Calvert and into the net.
Park junior Andrew Glass had a chance to tie the game a few minutes later, but his shot from the left side of the box hit the post and careened wide.
Wheeling Park had 11 corners during the game, while Hurricane had three.
The Park boys open their home schedule at 6 p.m. Monday at Wheeling Island Stadium against Parkersburg South.