STEUBENVILLE - In a tight defensive match up between the Oak Glen and Big Red girls soccer teams Monday at Harding Stadium, it was a span of 1:19 in the first half that proved to be the difference in the Lady Bears 3-0 victory.
"It's nice," Oak Glen coach Sam Paletta said of the win. "The girls have been working hard. We're making some adjustments on the fly. Some younger players have really stepped up.
"Our seniors and juniors are playing like we expected them to which is nice. We've been getting some real nice play from four or five freshmen though, which is putting us over the edge with us being able to sub."
Oak Glen's Alex Burch pushes past Big Red's Katie Slivka (7) and Brittany Gates (14) on Monday during soccer action at Harding Stadium in Steubenville. (Photo by Fred Younce)
With 29:49 left in the opening half Big Red (0-1) was called for a hand ball in the box which set up a penalty kick for Megan Collins. Collins laced a shot to the right side of the net that rocketed past Big Red goalie Lauren Gray for a 1-0 Oak Glen (2-0) lead.
15 seconds later it was 2-0.
Collins was again involved in the score, this time with a beautifully placed crossing pass from the left that teammate Alex Burch put in the back of the net for the goal at 29:34 of the first half.
"Their first goal was a penalty kick because of a hand ball in the penalty area," Steubenville coach Brittany Falbo said. "I think that just brought down our momentum and confidence down and that led to the quick crash on goal for the second score."
The Lady Bears kept the pressure going and with 28:30 remaining in the half Burch returned the favor to Collins. Shania Helmick got the action going by sending the ball up to Burch, who sent a cross that Collins put home for her second goal of the contest.
"They're two seniors and they both have speed," said Paletta of Collins and Burch. "That's why they're up front. They understand what they're doing, they're fast, and we feel like their speed gets us in the corners and they both do a good job of crossing the ball.
"Our midfielders are attacking with them. It's more than just the two forwards. People are giving them the ball. I'm excited to watch them."
The final 73:30 of action was a defensive stalemate with neither team finding consistent offensive pressure and both goaltenders being up to the task on rare attack opportunities.
"They turned it around in the second half," said Falbo of her team's defense. "It was 0-0 in the second half and they did what they needed to do defensively. We just had a late start.
"Our defense is real strong and will get better as we go. We have three seniors and a freshman on defense. We'll get better, we just had a mental lapse."
Casey Highfield earned the shut out in net for the Lady Bears, turning away eight shots.
Gray was strong for Big Red, saving four shots in the loss.
"I'm really glad we caught Steubenville early in the year because they're going to be tough," said Paletta. "You could see them as the game went on getting better, and better, and better."