Anthony Cipollone (middle) and Charleston Catholic are looking to continue the state championship roll with a fifth straight in AA-A.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic and Hurricane were crowned state boys soccer champions last year in Class AA-A and AAA, respectivelybut now that seems like a distant memory.The Fighting Irish, who won their fourth straight title, and the Redskins, who claimed their first, are both in flux as the new season kicks off today around the state.Catholic became the first school since the state tournament began in 1988 to win four championships in a row, and a fifth will take a lot more work.The Irish graduated three of their top four goal scorers and starting keeper, a list that includes two all-state players, and will be breaking in a new coach, Domenic Cipollone, who has been an assistant the past two seasons."The expectations the last three or four years have been very high, but we hope to continue it,'' said Cipollone. "I think they're going to be better than most people think they're going to be. There are some skills there.'' Sophomore Joe Trupo was Catholic's third-leading scorer last year with 18 goals and was a AA-A second-team all-state performer.Seniors Noah Cable and Phillip Mallory are also returning along with sophomores Anthony Cipollone, the coach's son, Lucas Gocke, Michael Gilmore and Thad Jameson and juniors David Hamilton, Roger Burdette and Brian Borman. Sophomores Hayden McCarty and Patrick Cline are vying for the keeper duties.Hurricane, which finished with a 23-0-1 record, finally broke through at states after three prior near misses, but now has to deal with the losses of coach Jim Dagostine, who stepped down after seven seasons, and nine starters.
The Redskins, though, are in good hands with Derek Ragle taking the helm after leading the George Washington girls to the Class AAA state title game in his first season as head coach last year. Ragle was also a former soccer player for the Redskins and assistant under Dagostine.The starting 11 will be primarily players who saw spot duty the last couple of seasons, including seniors Brady Lawman, who will move out of the net to defender, and Timmy Haslett, who will handle the keeper position full time; and juniors Loran Meadows, whose season was cut short with a broken leg last year, and brother Avery Meadows.Seniors Alex Kayuha, Nick Young, Chris Smith and Guillermo Ugarte, a foreign-exchange student from Chile, and sophomores Devin Lovejoy and Caleb Simmons will fill out the rest of the positions."I just keep telling them every day we need to get better,'' Ragle said. "Even my seniors are like young players because they've had to wait behind these starters for their turn."I've been real pleased with them. A lot of people think this is the year to get Hurricane and I think these boys are going to prove some people wrong.''
Here's a quick capsule look at the rest of the schools in the Kanawha Valley in alphabetical order with last year's record in parentheses:Capital (5-10-4): The Cougars lost 15 seniors but have some leadership in returning seniors Zach Koontz, Logan Garrison and Fernando Martinez.
George Washington (16-6-2): The Patriots, who finished fifth in the final AAA ratings, took it on the chin with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Parkersburg in the state semifinals.
GW, though, looks to be up to the challenge again this year with Garrett Phillips, a AAA all-state first-team goalie, Connor Boyd, Mark Dundervill, Drew Davis, Peter Nelson, Noah Miller and Andrew Wells back for another shot. Miller paced the Patriots with 12 goals while Nelson (nine) and Davis (six) showed a propensity to score. Logan O'Hara, Grant Platz, Bailey Johnson and Daniel Glines will provide depth.Herbert Hoover (6-13-2): The Huskies will take a hit with six seniors gone, but seniors Thomas Canterbury (defender), Jesse Weese (striker) and Brett Strickland (keeper) return to key positions.Nitro (13-9-0): The No. 14 Wildcats lost all of their offense and will lean heavily on seniors Alec Bailey and J.P. Maurer, juniors Chase Kirk, Alec Miller, Austin McKitrick and Chase Jarrett and sophomores Dylan Cavender and Chris Klocke, who will start in goal.Riverside (6-12-3): Senior Cameron Norris was one of the top scorers in the Valley with 20 goals at forward last year while senior Austin Ballengee returns at goalie. St. Albans (4-12-2): The Red Dragons have some experience in seniors Jack Wiles, who scored a team-high 12 goals, David Atwood, Nate Beck, Derrick Bumgardner, Ben Gregg and Sam Heywood. Junior Brian Knight, who returns at goalie, and sophomore Chance Cavender will also play key roles.
Sissonville (11-5-3): The Indians, who finished fifth in the AA-A rankings, hope to take the next step with seniors Josh Rawson, Hunter White, Zack Smith, Andy Minsker and Dylan Asbury returning along with juniors Sam Gary and J.R. Stricklen, who will step into goal so Gary can use his strength on the pitch.South Charleston (14-5-1): The Black Eagles, who were seventh in AAA, fell in the sectional championship game to GW on penalty kicks and lost eight seniors to graduation. Senior Kwesi Wilkerson and junior Jonah Cosby netted a team-high seven goals last year. Seniors Chris Brown, Devonyet Harris and Derek Nelson along with juniors Jared Butler and Noah Riley, both two-year starters, form a solid nucleus. Junior Jacob Gordon will be a first-year starter in goal.Winfield (14-5-2): Steven Taylor, a junior who tallied a team-high 26 goals, is among six returning starters for the No. 4 Generals, who lost to Hurricane in the sectional title game. Seniors Bryce Boggs (keeper) and Jeffrey Samples and juniors Austin Miller, Noah Laliberty and Jessie Richmond will lead the way.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.