Golden Bears claim OVAC 4A championship

WHEELING–Ever since the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference changed its soccer tournament format seven years ago, Oak Glen and St. Clairsville have dominated the girls’ Class 4A field. Each has claimed two titles in that span.

So, it was no surprise to see the second-seeded Golden Bears and No. 1 Red Devils in Saturday morning’s championship match on the artificial surface at Wheeling Island Stadium.

When the buzzer sounded after 80 minutes of tightly contested action, Oak Glen (12-2-1) can now hang a third banner in its Hancock County gymnasium thanks to a 4-3 decision.

“It feels good,” first-year Oak Glen head coach Ryan Wells said of being OVAC champions. “It was a goal at the beginning of the year. We kept track of the point system coming through, and we thought we could probably get in. You set those small goals to lead up to these big goals.

“I’m happy for the girls because they executed very well today,” Wells added.

The Golden Bears struck first when freshman Reece Enochs beat St. Clairsville goalkeeper Jaeda Nowak in the fourth minute.

St. Clairsville drew even four minutes later when freshman Mikayla Hendershot ripped a laser past Golden Bears net-minder Kaylee Travis just inside the right post. Teammate Alyssa Otto knocked down an Oak Glen goal kick and controlled the ball into the box where she slid the ball past a defender to Hendershot, who one-timed her shot.

Oak Glen regained the advantage in the 16th minute when Enochs, the daughter of former Oak Glen and WVU baseball standout Chris Enochs, sent a shot into the lower left corner that Nowak couldn’t get to for a 2-1 edge.

“We’ve got a lot of good, young talent that has come up through the club ranks and have had some pretty good coaching,” Wells added. “The future looks bright, but our six seniors are really important.”

Freshman Macy Malin pulled the Red Devils (9-2-1) back into a 2-2 deadlock in the 52nd minute when her shot from point-blank range somehow trickled past Travis and into the cage. Otto notched an assist as the ball bounced around in a scrum of players.

The lead was short-lived when junior Natalie Szpyrka’s blast from just outside the box on the right wing found twine in the far corner in the 55th minute for a 3-2 Oak Glen advantage.

Maggie Kovalick, positioned right in front of the net, re-directed a nifty cross from Szpyrka past Nowak for a 4-2 Oak Glen lead in the 68th minute.

However, St. Clairsville kept pushing forward and Malin’s goal in the 74th minute made it a one-goal match, but that was as close as the Red Devils would get.

“They dominated most of the game because we were not playing our game,” St. Clairsville head coach Wes Stoner said. “We started playing an entirely different game. We talked to them at the half and we changed it. We had more possessions and passed to the feet instead of trying to go over the top. We’re not as fast as they are back there. Our strikers aren’t as fast as their defenders.

“We finally changed that and got a couple of goals, but not enough … not enough,” Stoner continued. “We had a couple of defensive breakdowns that allowed them to get two of their goals.”

The high-scoring Otto was held scoreless for the first time since the season-opener. She has 49 goals on the season which is two shy of tying Jaclyn (Dutton) Yahn for the second-most in a single season.

The teams will meet in regular-season play Wednesday at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville.