Prep soccer: Athleticism leads Indians to title
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.VA. - The contrast in styles was striking, but when it came down to it, Bridgeport's depth and athleticism won over Fairmont Senior's physicality and grit in the Class AA/A girls state soccer championship game at the Friends of Coal Fields at Trace Fork on Wednesday afternoon.
Sophomore Amanda Saymon scored her second and third goals of the State Tournament and the Indians held off a late rally by the feisty Polar Bears to secure a 3-2 victory, giving Bridgeport its first state title the first season back in Class AA.
"When coach (John Reese) has us do sprints, we run in practice and push each other to go harder, we don't necessarily play as physical, but as you can see, it worked to our advantage that we could pass around them," said Saymon, who finished her season with a team-leading 28 goals. "Their physicality plays a factor a little bit, but you have to ignore it and play your own game and not let it get into your head."
The Indians (19-4-1) struck first on Saymon's 26th goal of the season after she managed to wrestle the ball away from Fairmont Senior's Taylor Reed and punch it through with 37:22 on the clock.
The aggressive Polar Bears (15-6-4) came back with a goal at the 8:49 mark when Gabi Mascaro rattled a shot off the bar, it came off goalkeeper Mariah Hall and in front to Fairmont's Ivey Nucilli, who knocked it in.
That was the first goal surrendered by the Indians since a 4-2 loss to Buckhannon-Upshur on Oct. 9 - a span of four games. Bridgeport had 14 shutouts this season, capped by its 7-0 verdict over Charleston Catholic in the semifinals on Tuesday.
The score remained tied after a first half in which Bridgeport dominated with 13 shots compared to just five for the Polar Bears.
"That's the game of soccer," Reese said. "Last night, it seemed like every shot we took was going in. You get that couple and they put their heads down. After we scored early we start thinking the same thing's going to happen.
"Fairmont has a lot of heart. They came back."
The game's third goal was a penalty kick by Saymon - her second PK of the season - that she rolled past Fairmont Senior goalkeeper Kayla DeLorenzo with 34:46 left in the second half.
Bridgeport extended the lead to two goals when senior forward Alexis Alastanos scored on a rebound from an Alexis Lindsey shot attempt with 12:15 remaining.
The Polar Bears began to rally one day after scoring twice in the final 10 minutes to eliminate PikeView in the semifinals.
Mascaro scored with 2:28 left past a diving Hall, and Fairmont Senior had new life.
"We just tried to dig deep and get one," Mascaro said. "We came so close. We had so many opportunities."
One of those opportunities that Mascaro wanted back was a close shot with one minute left that went wide of the net.
That was one of the chances that slipped away, but the Polar Bears had others that were beyond their control. She also had a shot go wide right with 4 minutes remaining.
Coach Debbie Cattafesta's team was unable to take advantage of corner kicks because of an obvious lack of height. No scoring headers were on tap for Fairmont Senior, which also dropped to Class AA this season and was making its first appearance at the State Tournament.
Mascaro, who plays travel soccer on the same team as Bridgeport's Saymon, said the experience was well worth the time.
"I'm 5-foot and I'm one of the tallest players on the team," Mascaro said. "We're a very, very small team."
"We never even came close to coming to a State Tournament," she said. "We had losing seasons and this is one of the greatest experiences ever. I don't care about the result, I won't ever forget this. It's awesome and it's a good feeling, even though we lost."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.