Howcroft’s goal leads Big Red at Harding

STEUBENVILLE – The Steubenville and Oak Glen girls soccer teams have developed a nice rivalry over the years. Big Red and the Golden Bears added another exciting chapter to that rivalry Thursday night.

The latest game was another hard-fought affair and a penalty kick goal made the difference as Big Red edged Oak Glen, 1-0, at Harding Stadium.

“This deep into the season everyone knows what you have and you know what you need to improve on,” Big Red head coach Jared Robinson said. “Everyone knows what is on the line. We knew coming in what type of game it was going to be, and our girls stepped up and where true to themselves. We fought and found a way to win.”

Big Red (5-2) was awarded two penalty kicks in the second half. The first was missed, but junior Marissa Howcroft scored on the second one with 11:43 left to play in the game to give Big Red the victory.

“It was a tough game,” Oak Glen head coach Sam Paletta said. “It was a very good game. It was a game between two solid teams. We made a couple of mistakes. We were able to survive the first one, but we are unable to survive the second one. Good teams are going to score on penalty kicks. It was a legitimate call.”

Sophomore goalie Gillian Haught and the Big Red defense got off to a bit of a rough start to the season, but Haught and the rest of the defense have really stepped up their level play as the season has progressed.

“Our defense has come a long way in the last six games,” Robinson said. “We gave up four goals against Indian Creek in our season opener, but we have played really well since then. This was our third shutout in a row.

“The girls have stepped up. We have some veterans back there who are leading the way.

“Oak Glen played well. It was a tight, close game. Our kids battled. They believed in themselves, and we are able to find a way to break through for a goal.”

Fields finished with four saves for Oak Glen, now 2-2-1.

Big Red and Oak Glen both had chances to find the back of the net in each half. Big Red had the two best chances in the second half on the two PKs. The first one came early in the half, and the kick sailed over the goal, resulting in a goal kick for the Golden Bears.

“It was back and forth the entire time,” Robinson said. “There is a lot of mutual respect between us and Oak Glen. The atmosphere was exciting. The atmosphere was fun. Both teams possessed the ball, and both teams had counterattacks. We just kept pushing.”

After Big Red scored to take the lead, the Golden Bears pushed forward in hopes of scoring the equalizer, but the visitors from Northern Hancock County were unable to get a shot into the back of the net.

“There is a lot of respect between us coaches,” Robinson said. “My hat is off to Oak Glen. They played a tremendous game. We have played the last four years, and they have won two, and we have now won two. All of the games have been one or two goal games. Both teams always come to play. Both teams represented their schools well.”

Oak Glen is slated to play at Harrison Central on Saturday.

“The girls are learning,” Paletta said. “Like everybody in our class we are playing a mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen. I am happy with how they have jelled as a team. They talk. They pass the ball well. They make smart soccer decisions.”

Big Red will play at Morgantown Trinity.

“We are going to enjoy this win, and then we will get back to work tomorrow,” Robinson said. “We are focused on our next game.”