A year ago, West Fairmont’s girls’ soccer team struggled to cash in on its corner kicks.

Whether it was not getting the ball in position for a scoring opportunity or heading and kicking the ball high and wide, the Polar Bears never found the back of the net.

“We had something like 71 corners and didn’t score on any of them,” head coach Debbie Cattafesta said about last season. “We’ve been able to score on a few this year.”

One of those goals came in the rain at East-West Stadium Thursday night, which broke a scoreless tie and allowed the top-ranked Polar Bears to come away with a 2-0 win against University High.

West remained unbeaten and all but sealed up the North Central Athletic Conference regular-season title, improving to 11-0-1 overall and 5-0-1 in the NCAC. A win over North Marion next Thursday will clinch the conference crown.

“That’s one of our goals we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season,” Cattafesta said. “If we beat North Marion we’ll have the top seed in the (NCAC) tournament, which means we’ll play all of our games here (at home). And that’s what we want.”

The Hawks proved to be up for the task of hanging with the state’s No. 1 team, bringing good overall speed to make offensive runs and a game goalkeeper in Emily Gallagher, who stopped nine of the 11 shots West put on goal.

However, West made University pay for one of its few mistakes late in the first half to gain a 1-0 lead.

The Polar Bears put a shot on goal, where Gallagher made the save but failed to control the slippery ball, which trickled out of bounds.

That gave West a corner kick, and Laura Dalton sent a high ball into the middle of the goal box. Morgan Cain came crashing in with a header, which was headed again by freshman Wittlee Retton inside the far post for the match’s first goal.

“We practice that all the time,” assistant coach Susan Dalton said. “And Morgan makes them in practice. She always seems to get her head on the ball and make something happen. But you don’t see two headers on the same play for a goal happen very often. That was neat.”

It wasn’t like that was the first scoring opportunity West had — there were plenty.

After University managed to record the match’s first shot on goal, which Ryann Moore saved, West countered with scoring chance after scoring chance.

Ryleigh Nucilli broke free and shot wide left. Lauren Retton did the same on the wing and missed wide to the short side. Megan Cremeans then sent in a shot that barely hooked outside the far post.

And just a minute before Wittlee Retton cashed in with a header, the freshman forward streaked down the middle on a pass from Lauren Retton but also missed wide right.

“We were putting shots all around the goal,” Cattafesta said. “I thought we had a lot more shots on goal than what we finished with. We just couldn’t get any of those in.”

With University continuing to get runs on the offensive end, they never resulted into shots on goal as West’s defense was tested and put to work.

And the Polar Bears’ back line of Cain, Christine Nolan and sisters Lisa and Tai Cattafesta turned away every threat by the Hawks.

“Our defense came on strong,” Dalton said. “They needed to get some work against a good team like University. And we’ve been playing a lot of good teams this year.”

Wittlee Retton put the match to rest with 6:02 remaining.

With the Polar Bears deep in Hawk territory, Nucilli sent the ball from the middle to the outside, where Danielle Price crossed the ball into the box. And again, Retton came up with a header that beat Gallagher for her second goal and a 2-0 lead.

“Wittlee will mix it up with anyone,” Dalton said. “She’s not afraid to get in there and be physical.”

University played two-thirds of the match without its fastest player — Kyllie Bebout. The junior forward injured her left ankle midway through the first half and never returned.

West returns to action at 11 a.m. Saturday on the road against Charleston Catholic.

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

Trending Video

Recommended for you