ZANESVILLE - All coaches like to have their teams peaking at tournament time.
First-year St. Clairsville girls' head coach Wes Stoner is no different. He's been tweaking the Red Devils' offensive and defensive styles of play all season, hoping to get the right combinations in place for the 'second season.'
Monday night all that work paid off as the third-seeded Red Devils blanked No. 7 Ridgewood by a 5-0 count in Division III sectional action on the natural grass surface at the West Muskingum High School Athletic Complex.
St. Clairsville’s Carlee Gillespie (8) and Taryn Barr work the ball toward the goal as Ridgewood’s keeper comes out to defend during Monday’s Division III?sectional game at West Muskingum High School in Zanesville.
With the dominating win, St. Clairsville (11-5) has still not lost - on the field - to a team from the Buckeye State. Four of its five setbacks have come at the hands of West Virginia powerhouses Brooke, Linsly and Wheeling Park (twice). The other was a forfeit to Indian Creek.
"We came out fast and really played the way we've been teaching them," he said. "We've been building the entire year for this and I think the girls showed it the whole game.
"Honestly, the scoreboard doesn't show how dominating we were even though we scored five goals," he continued. "We probably had at least 35 to 40 shots. We controlled the pace and we controlled the ball. We stayed on the offensive for the majority of the game, thanks to our defenders relaxing and playing the way we've been teaching them."
Senior Eberle Ferrell scored a natural hat trick - her 11th, 12th and 13th goals of the season - to pace the Red Devils, who eliminated the Generals (1-11) for the third consecutive season. Taryn Barr and Halee Callarik had the other net-finders.
"Eberle has been getting more assists of late, but today she was putting the ball in the net," Stoner, her step-brother, said. "That's what we need. When Carlee (Gillespie) isn't scoring, we need someone else to step up and Eberle did that today."
Barr gave the Red Devils the lead in the 28th minute when she sent a laser from just inside the box that Ridgewood goalkeeper Emily Kobel knocked down initially, but the ball got loose and trickled into the goal cage.
Just under four minutes later, Ferrell got the first of her three tallies. Taking a feed from Gillespie, Ferrell spun and sent the ball sailing towards the left side of the net where it clanked off the post and deflected behind the helpless Kobel for a 2-0 reading.
On the next St. Clairsville shot, Ferrell notched her second goal of the game when she blasted the ball off of Kobel's hands again. Barr logged the assist.
She completed her fine outing with a left-footed lob that just ducked under the cross-bar and over the outstretched fingers of Kobel less than 10 minutes into the second half.
Callarik concluded the scoring when she was in the right place at the right time. Madison Keenan controlled a loose ball deep in the box, but her shot was batted away by Kobel.
However, the deflection went right to Callarik on the doorstep and she poked it home.
"That was a great shot by Madison, but the goalkeeper got just enough of it," Stoner continued. "We've been telling the girls all season to crash the net and that is just what Haley did."
While the Red Devils were blistering Kobel with 24 shots, they had at least that many that were wide of the target.
Meanwhile, Ridgewood couldn't muster up any offensive firepower as St. Clairsville denied the few opportunities the Generals did have with some good defensive work on the back line.
"The girls filled the spaces and kept our shape on defense," Stoner added. "Sure Michaela (Miller) was all over the field, but she wasn't the only one. I told everyone that played that they played a great game."
He was referring to the hustle of Kayla Dusz, Valerie Dobbs, Hannah Jordan and Brea Reitter.
"I'm so proud of what these girls have accomplished. I know it's only one game in the sectionals, but to be able to see what you've coached all season come to fruition like this was great."
Ridgewood had just one shot on net, that being swallowed up by senior keeper Brianna Sowers, who notched her sixth shutout of the season.
With the win, the Red Devils make the return trip to Muskingum County Thursday to battle the top-seeded West Muskingum Tornadoes.
"I know they are the No. 1 seed for a reason," Stoner said.
"I think they are something like 10-1-2. But if we play like we did tonight, we should give them a good game."