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Delk Goal Lifts Park Girls to Sectional Crown

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Park’s Merritt Delk, right, scored the game-winning goal in the sectional final on Wednesday to help the Patriots advance to the regional final.

WHEELING — Wheeling Park girls’ soccer coach Carrie Hanna remembers watching her daughter Lily Hanna and sophomore standout Merritt Delk pass the ball to each other when they were younger.

On Wednesday, the two connected once again as Lily Hanna found Delk, who delivered what proved to be the game-winning goal with 7:22 remaining in the first half as Park outlasted Morgantown 1-0 in the Class AAA Region One, Section One Championship at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The Patriots advance to the regional final next Thursday, which will be played at Brooke.

“Everybody did their part,” Coach Hanna said. “Audrey Lantz did a phenomenal job on defense in the midfield, Abby Barki and Maya Taggart were a pain for them on the right all night and then to have a goal-scorer like Merritt Delk, you can just count on her to get that game-winner.”

For the first 32:38 of action, neither team could solve the other’s defense. That was until Lily Hanna found Delk racing down the field and delivered a pass right on target. Delk blistered a shot to the left of the Morgantown keeper to create the 1-0 cushion.

“We were concerned because they were panicking and forcing it a little too much,” Coach Hanna said. “We talked about being composed. I knew as soon as Lily took that little extra touch, she looked up and saw Merritt making a diagonal run from the right all the way across the field to the left and she found her.

“Lily and Merritt have a chemistry and a connection. They always have since they were little girls and I used to watch them feed each other like that. Lily just put it in the perfect place and Merritt did a great job collecting the ball with such composure and hitting the back post side of the net. You can’t save that.”

After the break, Morgantown began to possess the ball more and control the game.

In the final 24 minutes of action, the Mohigans garnered five shots on goal but Park keeper Josephine Kulpa was there every time to answer the call.

“All the credit to Morgantown,” Coach Hanna said. “We started on our front foot in the first half but we defended most of the second half. Our girls were bend but don’t break and Jo (Kulpa) — at the end punched another one over the net. She just always comes up big for us.”

Morgantown coach Stirlin Rivers couldn’t have been more proud of his squad.

“They have nothing to hang their heads about,” Rivers said. “They pressured and they shot but their keeper did well and got some good saves. We missed some opportunities but I can’t be upset. I was so happy with the performance. It was so unbelievable how they came out in the second half and changed the game.”

Morgantown finishes a roller-coaster season with an impressive record of 15-4-1.

“It was a strange season,” Rivers said. “I’ve never seen so many injuries to key players but what they were able to do even without our keeper for four or five games, they all just stepped up. It’s just unfortunate that it had to end.”

As for Park, it takes its 18-1-1 mark into the regional with hopes of making it back to state to defend its state title.

“I think the most rewarding thing as a coach is that you win for every single girl in the program and for the community,” Coach Hanna said smiling as she watched her team raise the sectional trophy in the air. “I just love to sit back and watch them perform the way they know how.”

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