Valley well represented at state soccer tourney
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The six Kanawha Valley teams that advanced to this week's state soccer tournament took divergent paths to Beckley.
On the boys side, Hurricane is the only undefeated team left in Class AAA while AAA defending state champion George Washington somehow keeps finding just enough goals to get by and three-time defending AA-A titlist Charleston Catholic seems to be rolling toward another championship.
For the girls, Charleston Catholic pulled a shocker, Winfield finally found success in overtime and George Washington got a measure of revenge on its way to states.
Sixteen teams from AAA and AA-A boys and girls divisions will descend Friday on the YMCA Youth Soccer Complex for the state tournament semifinals. All the championship games are set for Saturday. (See Page 2B for pairings and schedule.)
Hurricane, which has been No. 1 for most of the season, moved on to its third straight semifinal appearance, but is still seeking that elusive state title. The Redskins lost to eventual state champion George Washington last year 1-0 in the semis and fell to Wheeling Park 2-1 on penalty kicks in the semis in 2010. Hurricane also lost to GW in the 2007 state title game.
"It was just our time again,'' said Hurricane coach Jim Dagostine, whose squad has posted a 21-0-1 record this year. "What else can I say? I'm happy for [our players] and I'm proud of them.
"The core of our guys have lost two regular-season games in three years, [won] three sectional championships, three regional championship and [have] three state tournament appearances. I mean, that's just good players, good character and tough guys.''
Redskins senior Felipe Thompson, an exchange-student from Santiago, Chile, has taken the Valley by storm with 46 goals this season, including two in a 2-1 victory over Huntington in last week's Class AAA regionals.
George Washington has scored one goal in its last two games, defeating No. 7 South Charleston 1-0 on penalty kicks after a scoreless 110 minutes for the sectional title, then shading an improved Woodrow Wilson squad 1-0 in regionals.
"I don't think we anticipated getting this far.'' said GW coach Tom Hopper, who replaced seven starters from last year's championship team.
"We have a lot of juniors starting and frankly I'm a little surprised, but I'm pleased. I think any time you get back to states, it's gratifying. Our coaches did a real good job with the players. We don't have one outstanding player and we don't score a lot of goals."
Catholic's boys just keep on rolling, running their unbeaten streak to 53 matches after a 4-0 victory over Williamstown in regional play, but Fighting Irish (21-0-2) second-year coach Sam Fox is still searching for a complete game from his squad.
"Hopefully we'll be able to put it together,'' said Fox. "Whoever we play in the state tournament, they're good teams so we've got to play better to get good results.''
Catholic upset AA-A No. 1 Sissonville 2-1 on penalty kicks in the girls regionals to get back to states a year after not making it out of sectional play. The previous three seasons the Irish were state champs.
"We're pretty good,'' said Catholic first-year coach Amy Mullen, who starts five freshmen. "We play hard when we play a hard team. We've played several games with triple-A teams, and at times we were winning the game and we just couldn't finish the 80 minutes. As we grow, they'll just get stronger and stronger.''
GW's girls bounced back in the AAA regionals and showed some mettle, defeating Princeton 1-0 after losing 2-0 to the Tigers in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game a few weeks earlier. The Patriots were also without starter Bailey Rhodes, who was nursing an injured ankle.
Winfield hopes luck is finally on its side after Jayne Lawman scored a goal in the first five-minute sudden-death overtime period to dispatch Huntington 1-0 in the AAA regionals.
The Generals fell last year to Morgantown 1-0 on penalty kicks in the AAA state title game, and the year before lost to eventual state champion University 1-0 in the semis on a last-second goal.
Winfield coach Marshall Hoff made his players watch Morgantown players accept their individual plaques and championship trophy last year.
"[Secondary School Activities Commission assistant executive director] Butch Powell said that's the first time a team has stayed when the other team had gotten their awards,'' Hoff said.
"I said, 'I don't want [our players] to forget a second. The smell or that feeling because that's the only way we're going to get back.'''
Let the games begin.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.