Clay Archer, Contributor
WAVERLY — When Waverly and Wheelersburg’s girls soccer teams locked horns Thursday evening, the two rivals stepped on the field for a battle to stay unbeaten.
After Waverly shot right out of the gate with, seemingly, a vengeance, Wheelersburg eventually settled in, played its game and earned a 3-2 victory over the Tigers.
With 32:32 left in the first half, Loren Moran found a sprinting Amelia Willis over top of the Pirates’ defense for the game’s first score. Then, just minutes later, Willis scored her second goal, putting Waverly up 2-0.
But with 13:22 left in the half, Wheelersburg’s Laney Eller got the Pirates on the board, giving her team momentum heading into the final 40 minutes.
“We knew coming in here that Waverly had as good of a group as they’ve ever had,” Wheelersburg coach Todd Jarvis said. “They gave us what I thought they would give us. They knocked in two but we continued to rally to sneak in one before the half.”
The Tigers came out the second half much like they did the first — aggressively attacking the goal and challenging Wheelersburg’s defense.
But the Pirates’ defenders answered the bell and held the Tigers scoreless.
Then, with 26:52 left in the game, Wheelersburg’s senior captain and goalkeeper Morgan Bivens was forced to leave the game after bruising her shin on a bang-bang play.
That gave way for backup goalie Brynley Preston to enter the game.
“As Brynley came onto the field, I told her she knew she was good and could do it. She did a good job and I’m really proud of her,” Eller said.
With their senior captain and starting goalkeeper out, and as they trailed 2-1 on the road, the Pirates rose to the occasion.
Out of stoppage play, in full attack mode and with 23:34 left, senior Chelsee Steele scored on a deep goal to force a 2-2 tie.
Waverly responded, coming back with a fight and testing Preston in goal. But the young goalkeeper made save after save, keeping her team in the game.
With 12:07 left, Wheelersburg senior Jordan Jennings gave the Pirates one final lift with a goal on an awarded penalty kick, giving the Pirates their first lead of the game at 3-2.
After a late push by the Tigers, the Pirates held onto a win that has conference title implications.
“I told Brynley, ‘You have to be prepared for those situations.’ She works hard in practice, had a great save tonight, and I think the girls rallied around her and wanted to show her what they could do for her,” Jarvis said. “I’m very proud of them. We ask a lot of them and they respond to that, and it’s just a great thing. A lot of teams hang their head down 2-0 but they found a way and that’s commendable.”
Wheelersburg is back in action Tuesday, hosting Northwest. Waverly will attempt to bounce back the same evening, traveling to Minford.