Warren G. Harding too much for young Big Red in opener | News, Sports, Jobs


STEUBENVILLE — The 2023 season got off to an inauspicious start for the young Big Red girls’ soccer team.

Warren G. Harding controlled the ball and the match as the Raiders rolled to a 7-0 victory via mercy rule Friday evening on Reno Saccoccia Field inside Harding Stadium.

“This is a team we don’t normally play,” Big Red (0-1) head coach Annie Cutri said. “They are a strong team. They just dropped down from Division 1 to Division II.

“They are a new team. It’s tough when you lose your first game and your home opener.

“We have a lot of learning to do. Hopefully, the jitters are gone.

“They are a smart offensive team. We will not see many offensive teams like them the rest of our season.”

The visitors from Trumbull County outshot the girls from Jefferson County, 22-3. The girls in white attempted 17 shots on goal, while the girls in black collected two.

The offensive pressure applied by the victors resulted in the hosts taking 21 goal kicks. Warren Harding ended up taking nine.

The Raiders (1-0) had more than twice the amount of corner kicks as the Red-and-Black.

“In the first half, they played through our lines,” Cutri said. “Our girls need to get use to playing with each other. They are going to have to get used to someone different playing beside them. Communication is going to be important. They are going to have to get comfortable.

“We lost 10 seniors from last year.

“In the second half, we had some shots, but we were not able to connect on them. It was not enough to keep us from going down.”

The talented trio of McKenna Murphy, Sophie Gardner and Mia Jones all netted a brace for Warren Harding, while Josellen O’Brien tallied one goal.

Natalie James made two saves in goal for the visitors.

Big Red used two goalies in the match.

Sagan Smarrella started in the net, and she made seven saves. Mady Thacker came on in the second half, and she made three saves.

Murphy, Gardner and O’Brien all recorded a goal in the first half as the Raiders controlled the ball from the opening whistle.

It did not take long for Warren Harding to find the back of the net as Murphy produced the match’s first goal less than six minutes into the match as the senior found the back of the net with 34:39 left to play in the first half. The goal came following a throw-in.

Gardner tallied her first goal of the match with 11:02 remaining to be played before halftime to give the Raiders a 2-0 advantage. O’Brien assisted on the goal.

O’Brien then found the back of the net less than four minutes later enabling her team to increase its advantage to 3-0. The goal came 7:24 before halftime, and it was assisted by Hannah Brown.

Warren Harding outshot Big Red, 14-2, in the first half.

In the second half, the Raiders once again struck early to build a 4-0 advantage. Murphy picked up her second goal when she knocked the ball into the net following a corner kick by Gardner with 34:25 remaining to be played.

Jones scored her first goal with 25:29 left to play to make it 5-0, and then Gardner contributed her second of the night with a little more than 10 minutes left to play to bring the running clock into play.

Jones found the back of the net for the second time with less than 30 seconds remaining in the match.

“It’s a little different this year,” Cutri said about the annual event. “The boys were unable to find a game. It’s fun. It is a neat way to start the season.”

Both teams are scheduled to return to the field Wednesday on the road.

Big Red is slated to play Harrison Central at 6 p.m. out at Wagner Field.

Warren Harding is scheduled to play GlenOak at 7 p.m.

“We are going to have to grow throughout the season,” Cutri said. “We will see what we can accomplish in the next two or three months. The potential is there.”

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