With 10 state championships and 14 state title-game appearances between the two, girls soccer meetings between Charleston Catholic and Winfield over the years have built quite a history between the Kanawha Valley rivals.
On Thursday night, the Irish tightened their grip on recent history.
Behind a hat trick from freshman Shannon Karr and some stellar work in the defensive backfield, Catholic (6-0) picked up its third win in the last four games of the series with a 3-0 victory at Schoenbaum Stadium.
Since Winfield defeated Catholic in the 2016 Class AA-A title game, the Irish are 3-0-1 against the Generals and though the final score wasn’t indicative of how tight the game was, the result has rarely been as lopsided.
“[Winfield is] a great team,” Catholic coach Amy Mullen said. “They’re passing the ball, moving it side to side. ... I may have to see them again and it scares you.”
The Generals (7-2-1) certainly pack enough offensive punch to scare anyone, mainly behind strikers Julianne Pauley, Payton Frohnapfel, Kierstyn Doss and Ava Hall. Collectively, they’re an explosive group and though they had more than their fair share of opportunities on Friday, Winfield rarely found open looks to cash in on.
Behind junior and first-team All-State center back Audrey Miller, Catholic’s defense has jelled as of late. On Thursday, Winfield largely kept the ball out of the center, attacking on the edges. But once there, the Generals ran into other players that proved more than capable. In particular, Grace Litton, Vivian Delgra and Jenna Panaro were stuffed in the hip pocket of Winfield strikers nearly all night.
That starting group has yielded just two goals in six games this season with one being an own goal.
“These last few games my defense has really stepped up,” coach Amy Mullen said. “I wasn’t sure if they were a solid four across, but they are. Vivian is fantastic. She’s quiet, but nothing ever gets by her.”
After a back-and-forth opening 15 minutes, Winfield got the game’s first golden opportunity as Pauley squirted loose, setting up a one-on-one against Catholic goalie Katie Nester. But Pauley’s shot was drilled right into Nester’s chest, and Nester booted the ball down the field and set up an immediate run that ended with Karr capitalizing on a pass from Lindsay Carr for the game’s first score. That swift turn of momentum was huge early.
“We had about four open-goal opportunities that we didn’t finish on, but that happens,” Winfield coach Jade Smith said. “Catholic outplayed us tonight. I think we possessed more and controlled the game, we just didn’t finish and we left the goal wide open a few times. But I’m proud of them.”
Those two shots would be the only two of the half. The Generals opened the second half in pursuit of an equalizer and again had a great opportunity. Kalei Jordan booted a free kick into the box from about 40 yards out that was knocked down by Nester. But the ball was deflected away from the Irish keeper, setting off a scrum that was eventually cleared out by Catholic’s defense.
Less than four minutes later, Karr squeezed between two colliding Winfield defenders and broke free, beating Generals keeper Christin Walls a second time to give the Irish a 2-0 lead with 22:24 left. With some of the air taken out of the visitors, Karr registered the kill shot with 8:21 remaining as Hannah Rahin came up with a loose ball on Catholic’s side of the field and carried it just outside Winfield’s box before feeding Karr a third time.
For large spans, Winfield had its way, connecting passes and denying Catholic runs as well. Jordan, Mara McGrew, Rylee Hinkle and Emily Bryant in particular were pivotal in turning the Irish away several times, especially early.
Walls made a pair of saves for Winfield and Nester stopped two shots for the Irish.