Moran, Richbart lift Irish to 1-0 win over Knights
ONA — When McKenzie Moran was a little girl, her parents undoubtedly warned her not to play in traffic.
Monday night, she didn’t listen and she’s glad because her goal in congestion during the 52nd minute gave Huntington St. Joe (16-2-0) a 1-0 victory over defending Class AAA state champion Cabell Midland (9-9-1) in a battle of two of the state’s girls high school soccer powers.
Moran’s goal originated with a pass by Mina Smith and bounced off a combination of Abi Hugh, Bella Hale and at least one Cabell Midland player in front of the goal before the senior sneaked it just left of Knights’ goalkeeper Rayen Ciccolella.
“It was a really good setup,” Moran said. “Abi played it back to me.”
Moran wasn’t the only hero for the Irish. Goalkeeper Samantha Richbart made seven saves and survived a barrage of Cabell Midland shots that tested her resolve and athletic ability.
“Emilie (Charles) is a really good player,” Richbart said of the Knights’ leading scorer. “They’re all really good players. Our defense did a good job of clearing out and I was lucky to get on top of some shots.”
The contest easily could have gone to overtime tied 3-3. At 9:20, Elizabeth Dick, who transferred from Huntington St. Joe to Cabell Midland this season, missed left of goal by mere inches. Just 1:12 later, Hugh fired a shot off the cross bar, then seconds later narrowly missed a direct kick. At 31:28, Gabby Hammers of Cabell Midland took a pass from Harper True and shot hard, but the ball bounded off the top of the cross bar. Early in the second half, True sent a ricochet off the cross bar, missing by two inches from giving the Knights a lead.
Huntington St. Joe assistant coach Ben Eng was ecstatic with the triumph.
“These are the ones you love to play in and love to coach,” Eng said of the game. “These rivalry games are what high school soccer is all about. I’m so proud of the way we played. This is the kind of game you’ll always remember.”
The contest wasn’t easy. Each team tested the other’s speed, toughness and conditioning. Ciccolella saved seven shots, matching Richbart. The game ended with Cabell Midland scurrying for a shot in front of the Huntington St. Joe goal.
“Our girls are deserving of this and they gave the kind of effort a game like this deserves,” Eng said.
The showdown served as a reminder that the playoffs are coming and more such close encounters could be in the works.
“This game had a post-season level of intensity,” Eng said. “It was every bit a playoff atmosphere.”
The Irish get little time to rest, as they entertain Huntington High at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the YMCA Kennedy Center. Cabell Midland returns to action at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against Charleston Catholic.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 0 1 - 1
CABELL MIDLAND 0 0 - 0
HSJ - Moran (Hugh), 52:00
Shots: HSJ 10, CM 9. Saves: HSJ 7, CM 7. Corner kicks: HSJ 4, CM 4.