ST. MARYS – It was sunny but cool on Friday afternoon for the opening round match-up between St. Marys and Ridgway at St. Marys Area High School's soccer field in this year's Bucktail Tournament. St. Marys put up a good fight, but the Lady Elkers eventually emerged with the 4-0 victory to advance to the finals.
"We played more younger players today because of injuries. We want to do well tomorrow. Our younger players are showing improvement. Ridgway is a better team right now, and I wish them luck in the final," said St. Marys coach Dr. Bob Schmidt.
Ridgway coach Greg Maddalena said he was happy with his team's effort on Friday afternoon.
"We started off flat for some reason like we always do, but I have a lot of senior leadership on this team that turns our level of play around and gets everybody involved," said Maddalena. "Right now, they believe in themselves. They know they can win. They can put teams away. We knew St. Marys was banged up coming in, and that does hurt on their part, but we've still got to play the game.
"Anything can happen, and I really do believe from my keeper up we just played a real good, solid game. I'm really proud of each and every one of them and we're just going to wait and see what happens tomorrow. We haven't played either one of those teams (Elk Catholic or Bradford) yet."
The Lady Elkers played a dominating game, taking the lead less than 10 minutes into the game when Gabbi Benninger scored on a penalty kick with 33:58 remaining to put Ridgway up 1-0.
Ridgway's Danie Jo Dwyer added to the team's lead just past the midway point of the first half when she slipped the ball past St. Marys' keeper Mia Keener with 21:49 remaining to give the Lady Elkers a 2-0 lead.
Ridgway had seven shots on goal in the first half, while St. Marys had three. The Lady Elkers also had three corner kicks.
The Ridgway squad took a little longer to get things going in the second half, waiting until the 31:55 mark to add to their lead when Rhianon Fowler scored to put the team up 3-0.
The Ridgway squad thought they picked up their fourth goal of the match when Courtney Bush got the ball past Keener with 23:17 remaining; however, the referees ruled that the goal did not count due to goalie interference.
Not to be deterred, Bush kept after it and put the ball back into the net with 14:19 remaining. This time the goal counted and gave the Lady Elkers a 4-0 lead.
Ridgway had eight shots on goal and three corner kicks during the second half, while St. Marys had two shots on goal.
With the win, Ridgway will advance to the Bucktail Tournament finals versus Elk County Catholic High School today at 12 p.m. at St. Marys Area High School's soccer field.