WEIRTON - The Francesca Show drew rave reviews from the crowd.
Junior forward Francesca Rock recorded four goals, while freshman forward Francesca Farran finished with a goal and two assists to lead the Weir girls' soccer team to a 6-0 victory over rival Oak Glen in a West Virginia Class AA/A Region 1 Section 1 semifinal on a cold Thursday night at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
"It was a great night," Weir (14-7) head coach Jessica Naughton said. "Last week when we played them it was 0-0 at halftime. We had about 10 shots, but we couldn't score.
PLAYOFF SOCCER — Weir High’s Francesca Rock makes a move around Oak Glen’s Shania Helmick Thursday night.
-- Mike Mathison
"This week, we worked all week on getting people up by the goal. We worked on getting goals and getting shots on frame. We wanted to get people by the goal.
"Francesca Rock and Francesca Farran were unbelievable. They were clicking. They played really well tonight."
With the semifinal win under its belt, Weir will play city-rival Madonna in the sectional final at 2 p.m. as part of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at the Oak Glen Multi Sport Complex. The boys' sectional final will be played at 4 p.m.
The Red Riders defeated the Golden Bears, 3-0, last Thursday night in a game that was also played at Jimmy Carey Stadium. In that game, Weir recorded two-quick goals in the second half en route to the victory. Farran netted both of the early goals.
This time, the Red Riders struck twice early in the first half.
"We got down quick, and it is hard to comeback in this cold weather," Oak Glen (6-12-2) head coach Sam Paletta said. "I asked the girls at halftime, 'What is six inches?'
"Tonight, six inches was the difference between us being down 3-2 or being down 3-0. We had one shot go just to the outside of the post, and we had another shot that hit the post. If we could have scored those two goals, you don't know what could have happened. The ball just didn't bounce our way."
Rock contributed two goals in less than eight minutes to get the Red Riders off to a fast start. Farran assisted on both goals.
"It is very important to score first, especially with girls," Naughton said. "You let in that first goal, and you see their heads go down, and then you give up another quick goal and you are down 2-0.
"The girls played well. We were able to score that first goal. If we didn't, you never know what happens. We scored the second goal, and we were able to give ourselves a little buffer."
The Red Riders recorded three goals in each half en route to the victory over their Hancock County rival. Despite the deficit, the Golden Bears continued to battle until the final whistle was blown.
"There is no quit in the girls," Paletta said. "Even in the locker room at halftime they were talking about what we needed to do and what adjustments we needed to make to be able to come back.
"There is no quit in them. They are all heart."
Also for Weir, junior sweeper Mikayla Zias scored a goal on a corner kick, while senior midfielder Alyssa Single, who is one of the Red Riders' co-captains along with fellow midfielder Morgan Cassels, dished out two assists
"It was nice to see the improvement tonight," Naughton said. "We played much better in the first half. It was nice to see the improvement from everybody.
"Rock and Francesca did a good job up top. Alyssa Shingle and Morgan Cassels did a good job in the midfield. Beth Hawthorne and Mikayla Zias did a good job in the back. They did not give them too many chances.
"I was very happy with our first half."
The Red Riders outshot the Golden Bears, 29-4. Weir took 21 shots on goal, while Oak Glen took three. The girls from northern Hancock County took 10 goal kicks, while the girls from southern Hancock County took just two with both coming in the first half. The girls in the white jerseys took five corner kicks, while the girls in the blue jerseys did not take any.
"There is a reason Weir is No. 1 in our section," Paletta said. "They are very good. They are well coached. Jess does a good job."
Rock scored all three of the Red Riders' goals in the first half.
Her first goal gave the Red Riders a 1-0 lead 2:38 into the game. Rock's second tally gave the hosts a 2-0 advantage five minutes later. Rock collected her first-half hat trick with a goal with just 1:30 remaining in the half.
"It was much better as a whole," Naughton said. "We wanted some quick goals. We wanted to score fast. The girls listened. They worked hard. That is always nice to see. They came together at the beginning.
"Then, they relaxed and had fun with it.
"Rock scored four goals. I think that is the most she has scored in a game. Mikayla scored on a corner kick. Francesca Farran worked hard up top. It was nice to see her score a goal."
In the second half, the victors were awarded a corner kick. Zias came up to take the kick, and she fired her shot into the far side of the goal to give Weir a 4-0 lead with 12:59 left to play.
Later, the Red Riders recorded two goals in less than a minute to cap the scoring in the game.
Rock tallied her fourth goal to make the score 5-0 with 4:24 left to play in the game, and then Farran netted her goal with 3:29 remaining in the match.
Shingle was the last Weir player to score four goals in a game. She did so against Magnolia on Sept. 29, 2012, and she also tallied four goals against Indian Creek on Aug. 24, 2011.
Shingle was also the last Red Rider to record multiple goals in a postseason game. In 2011, Shingle tallied a hat trick in a sectional final victory over Oak Glen, and the following week Shingle scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, against Wheeling Central in the regional final to give the Red Riders a berth in the state soccer tournament.
Both teams used two goalies.
Sophomore Alyssa Kelly started in the net for the Red Riders, and she tallied two saves. Senior Madison Dalrymple replaced Kelly late in the second half and did not have to make a save.
Casey Highfield started in goal for the Golden Bears, and she made six saves before giving way to Erin Fields during the second half. Fields finished with nine saves. Highfield returned to the game as a player on the field.
"In the last four or five games, I have seen a lot of improvement," Paletta said. "They have worked hard in practice. They worked on things on their own, things that as coaches we didn't tell them to do.
"They have been focused in practice. They were focused on our next game. We showed a lot of improvement."
The match was the final one for Oak Glen's five seniors - Gabi Lemley, Shania Helmick, Paige Freeman, Devan Mynes and Highfield.
"I only had them for two years, and I am disappointed that I will only have them for two years," Paletta said. "They were the leaders of the team. They had no problem working with the younger kids. They are all friends. The seniors worked with a different younger player each day. The younger players would go up to them and ask them for help with stuff.
"They were the leaders of the team. They had good skills. They will be missed. When you have players of there caliber, how can you not miss them? That's high school soccer. Next year, we will have another group of 14-18-year-olds, and we will try to do it again."
The Red Riders claimed the city championship by defeating the Blue Dons, 6-3, earlier in the season in a game played at Madonna.
"It is going to be a good test for us on Saturday against Madonna," Naughton said. "We beat them earlier in the year. It was a battle back and forth.
"We have played Madonna in the OVAC Tournament. We have played them in overtime and in a shootout. We know what to expect. We just have to come ready to play.
"It is going to be a good game at Oak Glen."