John Bruce, Contributor
WHEELERSBURG — In a match that was practically dead even for the entire first half, somebody needed to make a play.
Wheelersburg freshman Jocelyn Tilley was that somebody.
With just 1:18 remaining in the first half, Tilley gathered a loose ball near the top of the Minford box and placed a rocket into the back of the net to give Wheelersburg a 1-0 halftime lead.
Wheelersburg (7-1, 6-0 SOC) came out flat and was caught back on its heels multiple times in the first 25 minutes of Thursday’s match. Minford (5-3, 3-2 SOC) brought more energy and had many more chances in the early going.
The Falcons’ best chance to score occurred around the 21-minute mark, but Pirates goalkeeper Morgan Bivens made an outstanding save in a one-on-one situation to maintain the deadlock.
Following the halftime break, the Pirates used their depth and rotations to take control of the match. Consistently rotating players between positions and in and out of the game kept the Pirates fresh, which paid off in the final 40 minutes.
At the 26:33 mark in the second half, Tilley netted her second goal of the evening when she finished off a great cross from senior Chelsee Steele to put Wheelersburg ahead 2-0.
“It feels really good. That’s especially because I’m a freshman and nobody really expects me to score two goals,” Tilley said. “It feels great.”
Just over four minutes later, Laney Eller added to the lead.
Eller won a race to finish off an outstanding corner kick from Alaina Keeney to extend the Pirates’ edge to 3-0.
Eller’s goal was the final score of the evening as the Pirates maintained possession throughout the final 20 minutes and held onto their lead, extending their Southern Ohio Conference winning streak to 32 games, dating back to the 2015 season.
“I have a lot of confidence in my team,” Tilley said. “We play together really well and we talk a lot.”
The Pirates will next be in action on Monday when they travel to Ironton Saint Joseph to battle the Flyers, while the Falcons host the state-ranked North Adams Green Devils Saturday afternoon.
1:18 — W, Jocelyn Tilley (3rd)
26:33 — W, Tilley (4th), assist Chelsee Steele (2nd)
22:25 — W, Laney Eller (7th), assist Alaina Keeney (5th)
Shots — Minford 9, Wheelersburg 14
Shots on Goal — Minford 5, Wheelersburg 11
Saves — Minford 8 (Makayla Watters 8), Wheelersburg 5 (Bivens 5)
Fouls — Minford 9, Wheelersburg 6
Corners Won — Minford 0, Wheelersburg 3