West Branch pours it on Salem
BELOIT — The West Branch girl’s soccer team played its way to another Northeastern Buckeye Conference championship for the fourth year in a row on Wednesday night by beating rival Salem 6-0.
“It was a tough year in the NBC,” West Branch coach Cheryl Ficco said. “I knew it was going to between us, Marlington, Salem or Louisville coming into this season. From week to week you never knew who was going to win, our last three matches were against those three teams, it was a tough stretch.”
West Branch finishes league play at 7-0 and is now 10-6-0 overall.
Salem finishes second in the NBC at 5-2 and is 10-4-1 overall.
West Branch only allowed one goal while scoring nine in three matches against Marlington, Salem and Louisville this year.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year, so this team re-built themselves,” Ficco said.
The scoring started for the Warriors when Elizabeth Ostadali put her foot to a corner with 33:36 left in the first half.
The next goal came from West Branch’s leading scorer Gillian Koneval when she booted the ball into the back of net.
The third goal also came from Koneval, when she striked a ball from outside the penalty box with 16:52 remaining in the first half.
Koneval has 18 goals on the season for the Warriors.
“Our whole team corn-rowed there hair for this game, we listened to some music to get into the zone,and took care of business,” Koneval said.
The game was 3-0 West Branch at halftime.
“We came in unprepared, the hype of the game got to the girls,” Salem coach Travis Zeigler said. “It took us 40 minutes to find the game and at that point it was too late.”
“Defensively we held up very well,” Ficco said. “Senior Madeline Hinkle and sophomore Maddie Showalter did a great job holding Salem’s quick attacker. We knew that was challenge coming into this game. Our midfield was able to control the game which opened up the attacking for us.”
This was West Branch’s second consecutive shutout and fifth on the season.
“It’s the best feeling being apart of a team who has won the NBC four years in a row,” Hinkle said. “Our defense really stepped up tonight. We had a shutout which was our goal, but we went above and beyond that.”
The West Branch scoring continued in the second half when senior Mikaela Whaley scored at the 35:14 mark in the second half.
The Warriors also saw goals from Abie Davis and Hannah Ridgway to secure the victory.
Salem is 10-4-1 on the season and will finish out the season at Columbiana today before traveling to Niles on Wednesday in a Division II sectional.
“We finished with a strong season,” Zeigler said. “We have one more game tomorrow and hope to finish 11-4-1. We got a good draw in the tournament. A loss like this is tough but there’s plenty of positive to still come, and these girls will bounce back.”
West Branch finishes the regular season at 10-6-0 and will host the winner of Canton South-Revere on Thursday in a Division II Medina sectional.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Ficco said. “We’ve definitely improved and grown through the season. I’m excited to see what this team can do in the tournament.”
In jayvee action, West Branch won 7-0.