They say that speed kills, and that’s exactly what allowed Charleston Catholic to deal the fatal blow to Oak Hill Tuesday.
The Irish used a pair of late second-half goals to put away Oak Hill 4-2 and claim the Class AA-A Region 3 prep boys soccer championship at Schoenbaum Stadium in Charleston. A rowdy crowd of about 300 attended the match.
“[Schoenbaum] is the widest field in the state and it’s the longest field in the state, and we love it,” said Catholic coach Niall Paul. “We knew as much as [Oak Hill] was hustling and chasing, the more we could make them chase, ultimately, our team fitness and team speed would hopefully win out in the end.”
Catholic wasted no time as David Kershner scored off an assist from Wil Swan just seven minutes into the contest.
Swan, Catholic’s leading scorer, helped put the Irish on the board again seven minutes later, this time finding Liam McGinley on a cross to put Catholic up 2-0 heading into halftime.
“We kind of go as he goes,” Paul said of Swan. “I was told when I got here that he was sick and had a fever. So, if he plays like that when he’s sick, we’ll take it. He’s a remarkable young man and he’s a remarkable player and he’s fun to coach.”
Oak Hill wouldn’t go without a fight, though.
The Red Devils came out firing in the second half as Corey Littreal launched a free kick over Catholic keeper Jonathan McComas with 34 minutes remaining to trim the deficit to 2-1.
Oak Hill kept the pressure up as Colton Workman lobbed a shot from the right wing that bounced off McComas’ hands and into the net to knot the score at 2 with just under 20 minutes left.
But Catholic’s vaunted team speed ultimately prevailed as the Irish finally capitalized on two chances late to seal the win.
Kershner found the back of the net off a corner kick from Aidan Paul at the 13-minute mark and Swan tallied a score with just under five minutes remaining to send the Irish to next week’s state tournament at Beckley.
“This time of year, you can’t spot a team a two-goal lead and then expect to come back and win the game,” said Oak Hill coach Lenny Keaveny. “We didn’t play the first 40 minutes, and decided to play in the second half and battle back and tie it at 2-2, but I think it took a lot out of us to do that.
“We didn’t mark up on the corner kick and they beat us to the ball and put it in the back of the net. That happens.”
“[Oak Hill] is not used to playing on this field,” said Paul. “[Oak Hill] plays on a small grass field, and I’m sure there were things they did to get ready to play on this length and width, but our boys do it every day.”
The Irish (19-1-3) will be moving to another familiar field next week as they make their 11th straight trip to the state tournament.
“It feels great,” said Catholic coach Niall Paul about making another trip to Beckley. “These boys have earned it in every way. They never get their head down. I knew this was going to be a tough match — Oak Hill always comes to play. They proved their mettle today and I think they deserve the trip.”