Meeting again

LEFT PHOTO: East Fairmont’s Allison Fansler attempts to kick the ball away from North Marion’s Kirsten Liggett during the second half of Tuesday’s Region 1, Section 2 tournament game. The Huskies’ Casie Wilson looks on. RIGHT PHOTO: West Fairmont’s Laura Dalton leaps in the air and tries to avoid Preston’s Chelsie Barker Tuesday night in a Region 1, Section 2 tournament game.

If it survived the Class AAA, Region 1, Section 2 semifinal, the North Marion girls’ soccer team knew what was coming next.

A trip to the sectional final. A chance to prolong the season. One more crack at West Fairmont, the Huskies’ county rival and top-ranked team in the state.

“You hate to play the number one team in the state in your section,” North coach Josh Barker said. “But I don’t feel they’re completely out of our league. We can play with them.”

They’ll get another chance.

In Tuesday’s sectional semifinal, North used a fast start and three goals from Mackenzie Mullenax to upend East Fairmont, 4-1. West convincingly punched its final ticket in the evening’s early game, getting goals from six players en route to an 8-1 rout of Preston.

The teams will play for the title at 2 p.m. Saturday at East-West Stadium.

North (11-4-3) took control of the nightcap early on. The Huskies had the ball in their offensive zone for much of the first half and grabbed the lead on an Erin Efaw goal. Mullenax added her first goal of the match on a free kick outside the box near the 20-minute mark for a 2-0 cushion.

North attempted 10 of its 19 shots in the opening half.

“In the first half, possession was 80 percent in our attacking end of the field. That’s good soccer for us,” Barker said. “We had a lot of opportunities and were able to capitalize on a few of them.”

The Bees, however, came out of the locker room buzzing.

After being pushed around, East shoved back to start the second half. It kept possession for long stretches — firing five quick shots within the first few minutes — and cut the lead in half when Jenna Wood scored on a breakaway at 30:22.

“They showed a lot of character,” Barker said. “We realized they weren’t going to lie down and die.”

So North went back on the attack, getting two more scores from Mullenax 3:07 apart in the last 10 minutes of the half to set the final.

“We pushed so hard trying to come back, we kind of ran out of gas and they were able to counter-attack us and get that one (goal back),” East coach Brad Mills said.

Mullenax, a senior, started the season on defense but has taken well to a recent position switch.

“The last three or four games, I’ve got Tiffany (Nicholson) and Mackenzie playing up front, and both of them are scoring threats,” Barker said. “Both of them see the field well and have passing ability and speed. They’ve worked well together.”

For the Bees, who also received 12 saves from goalie Nikki Nuzum, Tuesday’s game marked the end of the season, but also a look into the future with just two senior players graduating.

“We have a lot coming back,” Mills said. “We saw glimpses of a really good soccer team. They can’t be glimpses next year; you have to be around for the whole game, not just a 10- or 20-minute span. We need 80 minutes.”

Against a young Preston squad, West got back on track after a 2-0 upset loss against University in last weekend’s NCAC final.

“I think that loss brought them to their senses. They realized they have got to step faster. They’ve got to communicate better, and that was key (Tuesday night),” West coach Debbie Cattafesta said.

As was a balanced scoring effort.

After the Knights took a 1-0 lead, Tai Cattafesta evened it up with a goal at the 14:36 mark of the first half, and from there, West (16-4-1) didn’t look back.

The Polar Bears held a 26-3 edge in shots for the next 54-plus minutes and got goals from seemingly everyone in the lineup.

Krissy Bodnovich scored a pair, each in the second half, while Anna Starkey, Lauren Retton, Laura Dalton and defender Morgan Cain also got in the act. Starkey, Retton and Mackenzie Robinson each added assists in the onslaught.

“They brought the ball down and started passing really well,” Cattafesta said. “We’re excited. They’re starting to look like the team they should look like.”

E-mail Nick Cammuso at ncammuso@timeswv.com.

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