POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Gallia Academy felt like it won, while Point Pleasant felt like it lost.
However, what the two soccer squads did on Thursday night was play to a surprising scoreless draw, as the Blue Devils and Black Knights also navigated a downpour during their non-league tilt inside a soggy Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field.
Thus, host Point Pleasant was unable to complete the season sweep, as the experienced Black Knights notched a 4-0 shutout in the two teams’ initial meeting on Aug. 29.
But that evening was sunny and on the natural grass surface of Gallia Academy’s Lester Field, while Thursday’s return bout ended up being played in the rain and on a Fieldturf surface.
Still, after the first meeting, few expected the young Blue Devils to escape Point Pleasant with a tie.
Especially considering that the entire Gallia Academy offense consisted of three corner kicks by Morgan Stanley.
The Blue Devils did not tally a single official shot on goal.
Instead, they spent the overwhelming majority of the match on defense, as Point Pleasant posted 10 total shots — five in each half.
The Black Knights also had three corner kicks, but could not get the one necessary marker to snap their two-match losing streak.
With the stalemate, Gallia Academy’s record is now 1-4-2, as the Blue Devils also tied Fairland 2-2 in the season and Ohio Valley Conference opener.
Point Pleasant is now 5-3-1, as head coach Chip Wood was clearly disappointed following the contest.
“This is more like a loss, really,” he said. “Gallia Academy did exactly what they wanted. They parked the bus in front of the goal with eight or nine people. They didn’t even try to come out and play any soccer whatsoever. They just tried to sit back there and defend. We tried to get some penetration passes and tried to play the ball out wide to draw them out. But they just stayed back in.”
Indeed, Wood compared the Blue Devils’ tactics to taking “the air out of the ball” in basketball.
“They took their time. They took seven or eight seconds every time they threw the ball in. Every time their keeper had the ball, he worked off five or six seconds. Every time they took a goal kick, they took 10 or 15 seconds off the clock. All they wanted to do was kick the ball out of bounds and not play the ball,” he said. “They didn’t come over here to play soccer. They came over here just to stall and get out of here with a 0-0 tie. So they got what they wanted. We tried to pull them out and engage them in the game, but they didn’t want any part of it.”
Gallia Academy coach Cory Camden said simply that his club made the necessary adjustments from the first meeting — and they worked.
“I’m absolutely very proud of these kids. We made some adjustments because we knew Point Pleasant and Alexander (on Saturday) were going to be very tough teams,” he said. “We made some formation tweaks and personnel tweaks. It seemed to work out very well for us. We kept our shape well, we compacted very well, and we won a lot of 50-50 balls. The possession seemed like it was about 50-50. The second half, we made a lot of runs and controlled a lot of the balls up front.”
Pierce Wilcoxon played goalkeeper for the Blue Devils, allowing Andrew Toler to patrol the back line and strengthen the defense.
Wilcoxon was often around the ball and came up with six saves, including either team’s best scoring chance with only four minutes remaining — when Adam Verosky got behind the Blue Devils’ defense.
Verosky went right at Wilcoxon from short range, as the shot initially appeared to break the plane and tug the net strings for a goal.
But Wilcoxon, on his knees and with his back to the field of play, remarkably never lost possession.
“Putting Pierce in goal gave us our first clean sheet all year,” said Camden. “That looked pretty good and gave us the opportunity to put Toler into a defensive position where he can go forward. We stayed together as a team and really combined in and overlapped and staggered well on defense.”
Wood admitted that the Blue Devils used the Black Knights’ possession advantage against them.
Of the 10 PPHS shots, Austin Nott shot four times, while Verosky, Alex Carlisle and Cole Walker wound up with two apiece.
“Possession is the most over-rated stat in soccer. You can possess the ball 90 seconds, but if you give up one shot and it’s on goal and it goes in the goal, you’re beat,” said Wood. “They slowed the game down and used our possession game against us tonight. So again, they got what they wanted which was a 0-0 tie. It really feels like a loss for us.”
Meanwhile, it felt like a win for the underdog Blue Devils.
“We were ready for the game today. That’s a very good team over there, but we had a lot more of a gameplan going into today’s game than a lot of the games before. And it showed,” said Camden. “We’re still feeling out personnel. It’s game to game. You just don’t know who you’re going to see out on the field, either starting or subbing in. To tie a team like that and come back from losing to them 4-0, we’ll absolutely take that.”
The Blue Devils returned home, and returned to non-league action, against Alexander on Saturday.
The Black Knights, meanwhile, host Shady Spring on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106