Winfield's Braiden Maddox (4) battles Spring Valley's Michelle Greider.
WINFIELD, W.Va. - The Class AAA top-10 girls soccer rankings are beginning to look like a Winfield checklist.The No. 1 and undefeated Generals continued their march through the state's elite as four different players scored in a 4-0 win over No. 6 Spring Valley Thursday evening on senior night.The win marked the fifth over top-10 competition with each of them coming against schools currently ranked in the top seven (No. 2 Hurricane, No. 4 George Washington, No. 5 Wheeling Park and No. 7 Brooke).A season after winning the school's first state championship since a three-peat from 1995-1997, the Generals are sitting at 16-0 and are looking every bit the state's team to beat again.
Generals coach Marshall Hoff credits the hard work of his players and tough lessons learned over their careers for driving the program to its current lofty status. "They came out playing hard [today]," Hoff said. "The thing about them is as this journey continues you best have the utmost respect for every opponent because if you don't that'll be the day you go home. That's the very thing that's happened in past seasons."The freshman that are now seniors, from that day through this program, they took those days and they learned from them and the lessons they taught us. We left learning a few times."Over the last couple of seasons, however, Winfield has been dealing out tough lessons.It all started Thursday when M.E. Zulauf found the net just over 10 minutes into the match.The Timberwolves (10-4) scrambled on defense and kept the Generals off the board the rest of the half against tremendous Winfield pressure. Spring Valley actually came up with a few runs of its own in the last few moments of the first half and carried some of that momentum after halftime.But Jayne Lawman and Katie Bryant scored less than three minutes apart near the midpoint of the second half, squashing any hopes of a Spring Valley rally. Anika Shah booted in the final tally with around six minutes remaining."They're up to their No. 1 ranking," Spring Valley coach Todd Smith said. "They're a real good team, no doubt about it. We played our game, we weren't going to adjust for them, I would've liked for it to have gone differently but hopefully we'll see them again in a few weeks in the regional."There are several different factors that make the Generals such a tough out and they were all on display Thursday.There's the unrelenting depth, as Hoff used several substations and really seemed to wear down the Timberwolves in the second half.There's efficiency, as four of Winfield's seven shots on goal found their home.
There's offensive pressure, as the Generals outshot Spring Valley 18-5.There's balance, as all four of Winfield's goals were by different players and none of them are seniors.But maybe above all else, Hoff believes he has a special group of girls that may be playing above and beyond what last year's squad was able to accomplish."I'll put it like this, I've been coaching a lot of years, pushing over 20, and this will be the 10th here," Hoff said. "Every once in a while you get a group that comes along that has embraced the things we talk about."They know the blood, sweat and tears they put in because there's not another group that works like this group. They work their guts out and they don't want to give that up. Like I tell them, 'You've got to refuse to lose and do the simple things, we've got to do them better than anybody,' and they're doing just that."The Generals have a chance to add another checkmark on Saturday when they play at No. 3 Morgantown at noon. They will also see No. 10 Parkersburg South in the regular-season finale on Oct. 19.
Winfield also owns victories over Parkersburg and Washington, the teams tied for 11th in the rankings. Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.