WELLINGTON — Even though his Wellington team scored three goals in the first half, coach Kevin Ziegler admitted that the Dukes did not play their best soccer during the first 40 minutes.
After giving his team a pep talk at halftime, the Dukes dominated visiting Oberlin, scoring five goals and only letting the Phoenix possess the ball in their territory a handful times en route to an 8-0 win Wednesday afternoon in the Division III sectional tournament.
The Dukes (10-5-2) play the winner of the Cuyahoga Heights/Open Door match Monday at 4 p.m. at Wellington High School for the sectional title.
“I thought we started out real slow,” Ziegler said. “In fact, I pulled most of my starters midway through the first half, and we scored more goals with my subs in than we did with my starters. We talked about playing with a little more intensity and a little more style than we played in the first half, and I thought we did a better job of accomplishing that in the second half.
“Oberlin played us much better than they did during the regular season. They have three girls back who didn’t play against us earlier in the year. So give them some credit. They improved a lot.”
It took Wellington just under five minutes to score. Sophomore Megan Pitts rebounded a missed shot by sophomore Brittany Mariast and fired it into the back of the net.
Pitts wound up being one of two Dukes players with two goals. She began the second half with an unassisted breakaway goal at the 35:17 mark to increase her team’s lead to 4-0.
Pitts’ sister, Janelle, scored her first goal of the season with just under 23 minutes remaining in the first half to give Wellington a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Julia Marks finished off the first half scoring with 17:26 remaining.
Marks also finished with two goals, scoring with 22:34 remaining in the game to increase Wellington’s lead to 5-0.
“Julia Marks did a great job of controlling the center of the field,” Ziegler said. “She was one of the girls I didn’t take out in the first half. Megan Pitts did a good job in the first half of doing what we talk about — following the ball up when somebody else is shooting — and she picked up the rebound and scored our first goal.”
Wellington’s defense stonewalled any chance of Oberlin getting back in the game. The Dukes held the Phoenix without a shot on goal, which allowed sophomore goalie Kayla Sparks to post a rare shutout despite not recording a save.
“We came out weak in the first half, and I was kind of nervous,” Sparks said. “I pumped them up more, or at least I tried to anyway. We came out stronger in the second half and I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
Ziegler gave credit to his defense and Sparks.
“Defensively, we did a nice job of keeping them away from the goal,” he said. “(Senior captain) Grace Dooley did a great job back there of keeping everything in check. I’d say our keeper played well, but I don’t think she touched the ball once.”
Mariast added a second-half goal to her first-half assist, while sophomore reserves Jessica Quinn and Brittany Evans scored goals within the final five minutes to put the exclamation point on the victory.
Santiago saved 15 shots for Oberlin. She was peppered with 23 shots on goal and 29 shots overall.
“It feels great,” Sparks said of the win. “We’re on our way to states. That’s what we want.”
Wellington 8, Oberlin 0
Oberlin 0 0 — 0
Wellington 3 5 — 8
W — Megan Pitts (Brittany Mariast), 35:32
W — Janelle Pitts (unassisted), 22:55
W — Julie Marks (unassisted), 17:26
W — M. Pitts (unassisted), 35:17
W — Marks (unassisted), 22:34
W — Mariast (unassisted), 17:42
W — Jessica Quinn (Leah Snyder), 3:55
W — Brittany Evans (unassisted), 1:45
SHOTS: Oberlin 3, Wellington 29.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Oberlin 0, Wellington 23.
SAVES: (O) Fahlen Santiago 15, (W) Kayla Sparks 0.
CORNER KICKS: Oberlin 1, Wellington 8.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.