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Tough stretch hurts Catholic Central in OVAC semifinal loss

STEUBENVILLE — The match changed in a Steubenville minute.

Trailing by a goal with about 14 minutes left in the first half, the No. 2 seed Catholic Central boys soccer team appeared to net the equalizer, however, the assistant referee ruled the Crusaders were offside on the play, wiping away the goal.

Trinity Christian, the No. 3 seed, took advantage of the break as the Warriors scored about a minute later to build a two-goal advantage before tallying three more goals in the second half enroute to a 6-1 victory in an OVAC Class 1A/3A tournament semifinal on a cold and overcast Thursday evening at the Tony Recinella Soccer Field.

“It was unfortunate we were not able to tie it up there,” Catholic Central (4-4-2) head coach Steve Kopcha said. “I felt we were still in the game. I did not think we had a letdown or anything like that, but they came right back and scored to take a two-goal lead. I must admit that we did have a letdown because they opened things up from there.

“They are very skillful. They are a quality team. We knew they had speed. We knew they had many people we were going to have to try and control. They have good players in (Charles Steptoe) and (Gabe Turak). We had some defensive lapses that did not help. They are not a one-man show. That time period proved to be the difference.”

All told, Trinity Christian netted four goals in roughly the final 13 minutes of the first half to break the game wide open.

“We were advantageous,” first-year Trinity Christian (7-4) head coach Dan Lohmann said. “We had a couple of bounces go our way which led to open opportunities in the back. Our finishes were simplistic. We did not try to do too much.

“They have some very-nice players. They created issues for us. We were able to control the ball and limit their opportunities.

With the win, Trinity Christian advances to the OVAC Final against Linsly. The game is scheduled for noon Saturday at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville. Linsly advanced to the finals by defeating No. 1 seed Wheeling Central, 3-1, in the other semifinal Monday night on the road. The Warriors defeated the Cadets, 7-2, Aug. 23 at home.

“We played them early in the year, and we won, 7-2,” Coach Lohmann said.

“They are a much, much different team now. They are very well coached. They have a lot of talent. I know we are going to have our hands full.”

Carmelo Kniska and Kyle Knight each collected a hat trick for Trinity Christian, while Turak tallied three assists.Ben Lohmann made seven saves for the visitors.

David Kissinger recorded the lone goal for the Crusaders. The goal was unassisted. Michael Duff finished with three saves for the hosts.

Take away those 13 minutes or so, and the game was pretty even. Trinity Christian outshot Catholic Central, 11-10. The Warriors recorded nine shots on goal, while the Crusaders delivered eight. Both teams took 13 goal kicks. The visitors from Monongalia County had a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks.

“I was hoping that would be the case,” Kopcha said. “I knew it was going to be a tight game. I thought it was going to be an even game. I expected it to be that way for 80 minutes. I thought it was going to be close. I didn’t think we had a letdown, but obviously we did.”

The Crusaders struck first when Kissinger fired a long-range shot into the lower far corner of the goal to give Catholic Central a 1-0 lead six minutes into the match.

“I had not seen them play this season,” coach Lohmann said about Catholic Central. “I did not know too much about them. We didn’t have much film on them. I did not know too much about them. They were able to score a goal right out of the gate at the start of the game.”

The lead did not last long as the Warriors scored to tie the game at 1-1 four minutes later, and then they scored again four minutes after that to take the lead at 2-1. Kniska netted both goals. Kniska provided a big spark for the Warriors in his return to the lineup.

“That was No. 19 — Carmelo Kniska’s — first game back since the fourth game of the year,” coach Lohmann said. “He missed six games. With him being back, that added a different dimension up top.”

“This is our first time making the finals,” coach Lohmann said. “We have never made the finals before. I am most excited for our players. It is nice we are able to make history. We have not been to the finals before. It is going to be a new experience for us. We talk about making history, and that is what we are doing. We are excited to be able to do it. It is a great thing for our school.”

Catholic Central is scheduled to play Magnolia at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at home.

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