Wheeling Park Boys Win OVAC 5A Championship, 5-2 Over Dover
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — When the Wheeling Park boys soccer team lost to Bridgeport last Saturday, coach Mario Julian knew something had to change. Julian thought his team played too selfishly and knew that they would not be able to win a title if they continued playing like that.
“We got a wake-up call last Saturday with a tough loss and we had to regroup,” Julian said.
The Patriots spent the week practicing playing as a team and it paid off with two full team effort victories in the OVAC tournament against Steubenville Thursday and Dover Saturday to win the OVAC 5A Championship.
“We talked after Thursday’s win (over Steubenville) that it’s all about team effort and sharing the ball and not being selfish,” Julian said. “I think this was another example of it, we’ve got multiple guys scoring goals. It’s more fun to play soccer that way when everybody contributes.”
The Patriots defeated the Tornadoes 5-2 at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville Saturday morning, powered by a hat trick from senior striker Alex Canestraro.
In one week, the Patriots went from losing a game selfishly to sharing a championship together.
“I like how our team comes together, especially after the loss to Bridgeport,” Canestraro said. “We all came together and worked together hard to start playing less selfishly.
“A lot of it was positioning, we went over a lot of positioning issues that were happening. We fixed those and it’s like day and night now.”
The Patriots struck first Saturday morning when senior Brody Wall sent a shot past Dover goalkeeper Joey Jones at the 7:17 mark in the first half. Canestraro added his first goal of the game a few minutes later at 17:34 on an assist from Tresz McLeod.
Dover controlled the ball for nearly the entire rest of the half and had several chances to score but could not get a shot past Park goalie Dannen Foraker.
“I think we just came out a little bit soft, a little too laid back. They’re a good team and they made us pay for it early,” Dover coach Austin Wade said. “I think in general we just didn’t do the simple things as well as we should have.”
Leading 2-0, Julian was content to take that lead into halftime but the Patriots were able to score two more goals in the half’s final two minutes.
The first came on an impressive individual effort by Canestraro assisted by Matteo Gattesco and the second came when a shot from midfielder Manuel Juanez glanced off a Dover defender and deflected into the net.
“We had a 2-0 lead going in and I felt really comfortable about our game,” Julian said. “Alex did an individual move there to score and then the fourth one was kind of lucky. But in this game, sometimes you need the bounces to go your way.”
Dover controlled play again to start the second half but still could not crack Foraker. Julian credited Park’s midfield for how the team was able to play strong on both ends.
“Our midfield was strong today, all three of them,” Julian said. “We knew that Dover had some good players and that they’re a good, strong midfield. We took it upon ourselves to make sure our midfield was up to the challenge.”
Canestraro added his third and final goal at 19:57 to ice the game for the Patriots.
Dover added two goals in the final seven minutes from Ethan Kopp and Nick Castricone after both teams had made mass substitutions.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the seniors, this is two (OVAC Championships) in four years for them,” Julian said. “It’s real nice for them to be able to raise that trophy.”
“It feels good,” Canestraro added. “I think of the guys in the past who I played with. It’s kind of like continuing their legacy, winning this title.”