GW boys, girls play for state soccer tourney berths tonight
George Washington coach Tom Hopper doesn't read much into early-season victories.
"Everybody's figuring out who's supposed to be where,'' he said. "You constantly make adjustments.''
That's the main reason No. 5 George Washington (15-5-2), the defending state champion, and No. 20 Woodrow Wilson (9-7-4) are meeting for the second time this season at approximately 7:30 tonight in the Class AAA Region 4 boys high school soccer final at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium in Coonskin Park.
All AAA regional games were originally scheduled for Thursday, but because of a scheduling conflict at Schoenbaum the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission allowed the Region 3 boys and girls games to be moved to a different date. The regional winners move on to the state tournament, which will take place Nov. 2-3 at the YMCA Sports Complex in Beckley. (See Page 2B for regional pairings.)
The Patriots defeated the Flying Eagles 2-0 in late August but a lot has changed for both teams. GW wasn't sure what it had after replacing seven starters from last year's title team while Woodrow slowly built up steam as the season wore on.
"[We're] familiar from the standpoint we know a couple of guys they have,'' Hopper said. "Once again, they've moved some bodies around so it's not all familiar. I look for a really competitive game. You just never know. We've improved a lot since then and I'm sure they have, too.''
Goals should be at a premium when GW and Woodrow match up this time.
The Patriots escaped sectional play with a 1-0 victory over No. 7 South Charleston in a penalty-kick shootout. GW has only scored four goals or more four times this season, but junior keeper Garrett Phillips and his defense have posted 13 shutouts, including the last two games.
Woodrow, which defeated Oak Hill 1-0 in its section final, has nine shutouts in its last 11 games behind senior keeper Casey Young.
"We've seemed to go in spurts,'' said Hopper of scoring goals. "On the flip side, we've been able to hold other teams the majority of the time in check.
"I guess we feel like one goal's enough. We've had a lot of opportunities. In practice there's been a lot more emphasis on in-close shooting and adverse-situation shooting. This has not been as productive a group as far as the number of goals, but we're able to get them when we need them.''
The Patriots' top scorer is junior Noah Miller with 12 goals, followed by senior Garrett Warner's 10 and junior Peter Nelson's nine.
Hopper said the GW players feel as if they have been granted new life after the close call with SC in the section final this past weekend.
"We all know that we were very fortunate to come out of it with a victory,'' he said. "We could have been done. You could tell there was a lot of relief.
"It's really a matter of whether the kids can do it. We've finally reached a point in the season where they really trust one another and know what to expect from the other players. As long as they play well I can accept the outcome.''
GW will get another shot at a familiar opponent, too.
The No. 6 Patriots (16-5-1) will take on No. 4 Princeton (17-1) at 5:30 p.m. today at Schoenbaum in the Region 3 final. The Tigers defeated GW 2-0 a few weeks ago in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game.
"The advantage of that is the girls respect them and they definitely won't take them lightly,'' said GW first-year coach Derek Ragle. "I think we've had some good practices lately.
"Our team morale seems to be good. It's the best it's been all season. I think [our players are] real excited to play Princeton. Numerous girls have said they can't wait to play Princeton. I think our girls are looking to even the score.''
The last time the Patriots faced Princeton they were coming off a week in which they played top-5 teams Hurricane and Winfield, splitting the two games, and had several starters either playing with injuries or out because of them.
GW suffered a few more bumps and bruises in its 2-0 win over Capital in the section final this past weekend with four players leaving the game.
"We feel like we're ready to go if someone gets injured,'' Ragle said.
Senior Charlie Lucente leads the Patriots with 13 goals while junior Taylor Ellis has 12 and senior Stephanie Kelly nine. Sophomore keeper Olivia Miller has 11 shutouts.
"We had opportunities to score goals [against Princeton],'' said Ragle. "We need to just finish our chances.''