MORGANTOWN – A 13-win season for the Buckhannon-Upshur High School girls soccer team drew to a close Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to University in the sectional semifinals. B-U’s section is absolutely loaded, with all four teams ranked in the AAA top 10 – University at No. 2, Morgantown at No. 3, B-U at No. 9 and Preston at 10th.
The Hawks wasted little time showing why they’re so highly regarded, with Ally Bender heading in a corner kick in just the fifth minute. Eva Bridges converted a penalty kick in the 30th minute to give the Hawks a 2-0 advantage heading into halftime.
“University is a very disciplined team,” B-U head coach Jackie Zuliani said after the game. “They move the ball well and are very good at set pieces. We let them out-step us in the first half. They had us on our heels and we allowed them into our defensive third way too much.”
Buckhannon-Upshur suffered a further setback when starting goalkeeper Claire Coffman was forced out of the game late in the first half with a head injury. Brooklyn Bryant assumed that role the rest of the game.
“We lost Claire to an injury after making a fantastic save,” Zuliani said. “Their best player got past our defense and had a one-on-one opportunity with Claire. Claire came out and didn’t allow her to get a shot off, but she was injured in the collision.”
Zuliani credited Bryant with a gutsy performance coming off the bench and facing the number two team in the state in her first varsity action.
“Brooklyn Bryant got her first varsity minutes and did an amazing job,” Zuliani said. “She had some great saves. So proud and excited for her!”
University made it 3-0 about 12 minutes into the second half when Ari Christiansen scored on her own rebound. But the Lady Bucs weren’t done just yet. With 22 minutes left in the game, senior Madi Ware slotted home a penalty kick to cut the University lead to 3-1.
That’s how things would end as the Hawks defense rebuffed several challenges to close out the game. Overall, University outshot B-U 10-3 and attempted 12 corner kicks to just one for the Lady Bucs.
“We really picked it up in the second half and controlled much of the game, but couldn’t get any good looks,” Zuliani said. “Every time one of our forwards or outside mids got the ball, they were instantly surrounded by University players.”
But the veteran coach credited her team for keeping up the pressure until the final whistle.
“They fought till the end and I am so proud of them,” Zuliani said.
The Hawks (17-2-1) advance to their fifth straight sectional final against crosstown rival Morgantown High School. The Mohigans (15-3) also scored an early goal en route to a 2-0 win over Preston County.
The Lady Bucs, meanwhile, see a promising 13-5-3 season come to close. They will say goodbye to some key seniors – Ware, Leigh Ann Bennett, Lauren Gompers, Peyton Carlyle, Audrey Gaudet and Chelsea Humphrey – but have a roster loaded with young talent returning next year as well.
“This has been a fantastic season and I am so proud if how these girls have grown and come together as a team,” Zuliani said. “Best of luck to our seniors. They will all be missed very much. We wish them nothing but the best in the future!”