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Catholic Central girls soccer team scores early and often vs. Madonna

POSSESSING — Catholic Central’s Bella Zinno possesses the ball in front of Madonna’s Sofia-Teresa Dibacco during Thursday’s contest. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — The Catholic Central girls soccer team wanted it more than Madonna on Thursday.

The Crusaders scored a goal about two minutes into the match, and they controlled the game from that point on, en route to a 4-1 victory against Madonna to knock the Blue Dons from the ranks of the unbeaten.

“I don’t know the time of that goal, but that is the fire and the pep we needed to start the game,” Catholic Central (4-2-2) head coach Jonathan Hoover said.

Catholic Central tallied the first three goals to take gain control of the match.

“One team wanted to play, the other didn’t,” Madonna (2-1-3) head coach Bob Kolanko said. “They took it to us in the first five minutes. They stepped to the ball, while we stepped away from the ball. That is the name of the game. They won all the 50/50 balls. Our defense did not communicate to one another. You have four people playing as individuals instead of as a group.

“When I put our freshmen in, it changed the culture of the game. It flipped the script. We were able to put more pressure on their defensive end. They wanted to play. We conceded four goals. That has to stop.”

Maria Meyer recorded two goals to lead the way for the Crusaders, while Becca Bolster and Ellen Rhode each collected a goal. Bella Zinno chipped in with an assist. Bre DeChristopher made eight saves.

“We were aggressive to the ball,” Hoover said. “We talked since Monday. Our opponents were dictating the play, and we wanted to come out focused and set the tone and play the way we needed to play.”

Angelina Spicakrd produced the lone goal for the Blue Dons off of an assist by Isabella Pulice. Madonna had to use two goalies. Abby Macek started and made two saves. Sofia-Teresa Dibacco came in for a couple of minutes in the second half after Macek went down with an injury. Dibacco did not have to make save before Macek came back onto the field.

Bolster opened the scoring on a breakaway before Meyer scored the next two goals on similar plays to give the Crusaders a three-goal advantage.

“It has just been a matter of the players listening,” Hoover said about his team’s turnaround this season. “I am giving them instructions, but they are buying in. They are the ones going out there and playing. It is all about the players. I am giving them instructions, but they are ones that have to go out and do it.”

Spickard scored late in the first half to pull the Blue Dons to within 3-1 at halftime.

Catholic Central maintained its two-goal lead until the final minutes of the game when Rhode delivered a goal on a penalty kick after Madonna was called for a handball in the box.

The Blue Dons have dominated the series for years, but the Crusaders were able to turn the tables on their local rivals in this matchup.

“This is only my second year, but you could tell it’s been awhile since we beat them,” Hoover said. “After the second and third goal, you could see they were getting more and more frustrated. I think they did expect us to do what we did.”

The Crusaders played hard from the opening whistle until the final whistle blew.

“That is something we have been harped on all season,” Hoover said. “After we had a poor showing against Steubenville, we harped on playing 80 full minutes of soccer. Today, we got 80 minutes of soccer out of them.”

The game was the final one before the cutoff to qualify for the annual OVAC tournament. Thursday was the cutoff day to qualify. Catholic Central entered the game as the No. 2 seed in the Class 1A/3A standings, while Madonna was ranked No. 3.

The Crusaders are off until they compete in the OVAC tournament. As of now, the Crusaders and the Blue Dons could play again Thursday at Catholic Central in the semifinals.

“It is a good step forward,” Hoover said. “The last couple of years we weren’t doing well. We did not have any wins last year and we had one win the year before, and we had to play Linsly or Madonna in the semifinals. It is tough to win those games. This year as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, we will have a home game. With only four teams in our division, we will have a home game.”

The Blue Dons have to quickly regroup, as they only have one day of practice before playing Weir High in the annual city championship game at noon Saturday at Jimmy Carey Stadium.

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