Wheelersburg Pirates soccer
John Bruce

John Bruce

Wheelersburg outlasts North Adams in overtime, heads to district final

The Pirates advanced after ousting North Adams in an overtime thriller.

John Bruce, Contributor

WHEELERSBURG — For nearly 95 minutes, Wheelersburg and North Adams played to a dead heat. 

Wheelersburg’s Bella Miller scored both goals of a 2-1 overtime win on Monday.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

Each team had scored one goal, taken 14 shots and committed 12 fouls through 94 minutes. However, with just 56 seconds left in overtime, the familiar connection of Bella Miller and Jocelyn Tilley helped put the Wheelersburg Pirates back in the district finals for a fifth time in six seasons.

Tilley sent a picture-perfect pass through the Green Devils’ defense to lead the streaking Miller, who didn’t hesitate, and quickly put a shot towards the right-back post. North Adams sophomore goalkeeper Harlee Brand was able to get a fingertip on the shot, but was unable to force it wide like she had many times before on the evening.

As the ball hit the strings, the Pirates (14-2-2) exploded with joy as they celebrated their 14th win of the season.

“I just thought about outrunning the defenders. That was crucial,” Miller said. “There was no time to bobble the ball around. I just had to take the shot and hope for the best.”

The game began with nearly 15 minutes of a torrential downpour, which slowed both teams’ offenses and caused the defenses and goalkeepers to be more cautious with their footing.

The first chance of the match came from Wheelersburg when Brand was collided with, leaving the Devils’ goal open.

Miller put a shot towards the target, but Laney Ruckel was there to make a spectacular non-goalie save to keep the game scoreless for the time being. The Devils’ quickly made their way up the field, but the Pirates’ Maddi Kotcamp made a great recovery to shut down the attack, which would be something she did repeatedly throughout the match. 

Each goalkeeper took their turn making winning plays in the match. Brand made several outstanding saves and Wheelersburg’s Brynley Preston played aggressively above her line, shutting down several ambitious runs by the Devils. 

The Devils’ attack consisted of several through balls that would lead Hunter Grooms and Kenlie Jones past the Pirates defense, one of which forced Preston to make a decision.

Preston pressed out hard in front of the box to stop Hunter Grooms from getting an open touch on goal, but the ball would trickle out to Ainsley Grooms, who calmly picked up the loose ball and sailed it into the back of the net to put the Green Devils (10-7-1) ahead 1-0 with 13 minutes remaining in the first half.

Neither team could produce much in terms of offense for the rest of the half, although Tilley sent in a screaming free kick as time expired that Brand had to punch over the top of the crossbar to keep the lead for the Green Devils. 

The Green Devils’ defense, led by Ruckel and senior Sydney Figgins, consistently kept the Pirates’ attack at bay, despite runs by Miller, Mia Vastine, Grace Charles and Annie Coriell. The Pirates’ defense, led by Kotcamp, Haleigh Collier and Allie Valance routinely caused the Devils’ attack to be stalled with their offsides trap, stopping many runs before they even began. 

Less than three minutes into the second half, a beautiful lead pass from Coriell to Kylan Darnell set up the Pirates’ first goal. Darnell touched that pass back to Miller, who drilled her shot just below the crossbar to tie the match at 1-1. 

The intensity of the match picked up exponentially, leading to physical play and thus several free kicks. The best opportunity off a free kick came from Tilley halfway through the second half. Tilley, from the left wing, put a laser towards the far post that Brand was able to tap off of the post to keep the match tied.

Neither team had a great chance again until the final 20 seconds when the Green Devils hit the post after Preston forced a rushed shot that went harmlessly to the outside of the box before being cleared out. 

In overtime, Tilley started to take over the match for the Pirates, firing multiple shots from deep that Brand would handle. A pass from Tilley to Miller was played to Coriell, who nearly beat Brand, but the sophomore keeper was able to touch it off the post with three minutes to play in the session. 

All of that would eventually lead to Miller’s heroics to finish the match. 

The Pirates’ defense played the ball to the middle for Tilley, who sent the brilliant ball ahead for Miller, which would be the sophomore’s 20th goal of the season and Tilley’s 22nd assist on the campaign. 

“I play club with [North Adams’ Brand], so I knew how she played,” Tilley said. “I knew she was very aggressive. Those high shots and the hard shots, I was hoping they’d slip out of her hands. But that last one, I was just hoping Bella would get it. I tried to not kick it too hard and she finally got it.”

Wheelersburg will return to action on Thursday at Waverly when they battle the No. 2 seeded Eastern Brown.

The Pirates are 4-0 in their short history in district championship games, a resume that includes a 4-3 win over the Warriors in overtime last fall. Eastern (13-1-2) is looking for their first-ever district title after falling in their previous five appearances, including in each of the past three seasons. 

North Adams ends their season at 10-7-1 after collecting their ninth consecutive sectional title. The Green Devils are still looking for their first district title. 

Scoring Summary

1st Half

13:14 – NA – Ainsley Grooms (7th), unassisted

2nd Half

37:04 – W – Bella Miller (19th), Kylan Darnell

Overtime

0:56 – W – Bella Miller (20th), Jocelyn Tilley

Statbook

Shots – Wheelersburg 15, North Adams 14

Shots on Goal – Wheelersburg 13, North Adams 7

Saves – Wheelersburg 6 (Preston 6), North Adams 11 (Brand 10, Ruckel 1)

Fouls – Wheelersburg 12, North Adams 12

Corners Won – Wheelersburg 4, North Adams 2

Offsides – Wheelersburg 1, North Adams 7

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