Sissonville's Andy Minsker heads the ball in front of Charleston Catholic's Thad Jameson.
MADISON, W.Va. - Charleston Catholic sure didn't resemble Thursday night the team that began the season with a new coach and some holes to fill.The Fighting Irish showed the poise of a veteran squad as sophomore Anthony Cipollone and junior Roger Burdette gave them an early lead and sophomore Joey Trupo closed it out with a pair of unassisted tallies in a 4-1 victory over Sissonville in the Class AA-A Region 4 Section 2 boys championship game. A crowd of about 100 attended the matchup of state-ranked teams on the turf at Scott High School.Four-time defending state champion Catholic (14-3-3), which finished the regular season No. 1 in the state coaches association rankings, advances to the Region 4 final at approximately 7:30 p.m. next Thursday at Ripley High School, with the winner advancing to the state tournament, which will take place Nov. 8-9 in Beckley."It was a great game,'' said Trupo of Thursday's triumph over the No. 6 Indians (13-5-2). "That's exactly how we want to play. It's just like we're all coming together. Our mindset is perfect. It's not letting down.''
After controlling possession for most of the first half, Catholic finally made it pay off as Cipollone converted an unassisted goal in the 25th minute to give the Irish the lead for good at 1-0. Catholic sophomore Lucas Gocke sent a direct kick that Sissonville keeper J.R. Stricklen deflected, but Cipollone crashed hard at the left post to put in the rebound. Stricklen finished with 10 saves.Burdette put the Irish in front 2-0 75 seconds before halftime on a setup from senior Noah Cable. Cable passed the ball to Burdette on the left wing and Burdette one-touched a rocket that curled into the lower-right corner."Not like last time we played them,'' smiled Catholic first-year coach Domenic Cipollone in reference to falling behind 1-0 early to Sissonville in the second half before rallying for a 2-1 win during the regular-season meeting. "Maintain the intensity. We're sort of getting in tune. I think some people are surprised we made it this far.''Catholic's Trupo quickly put the Indians in a deeper hole less than three minutes into the second half on an unassisted tally. A shot ricocheted off Stricklen to a waiting Trupo in front of the net.Sam Gary's goal just a few seconds later breathed some life into Sissonville as the Indians trimmed the deficit to 3-1, but they couldn't convert the few chances that were remaining. Trupo then ended the suspense with another unassisted goal off a direct kick from 35 yards away at a severe right angle. Irish junior goalie Patrick Kline stopped four shots."They got a couple on us and in kind of a way we were worried about free kicks and set plays,'' said Sissonville coach Eric Minsker, who will lose five starters to graduation. "I'll take the blame on this one."We probably didn't work hard enough on defending those things. I thought the boys played extremely hard. I couldn't ask for any more effort than we gave. We had our opportunities. We had a couple of nice crosses.'' The Irish graduated three of their top four goal scorers and starting keeper from last year's team, a list that included two all-state players. In addition, Domenic Cipollone took over the reins as head coach after two seasons as an assistant.It's been a bumpy ride at times this season for the Irish, who saw their 64-match unbeaten streak end. Catholic suffered three losses, including back-to-back defeats, which hasn't occurred since 2008."We started off a little rough,'' Trupo said. "We went through some adversity, but we're doing great right now. Most of [our] team didn't play together."We brought in eight players. It was hard, but we brought it together. It's coaches and players, everyone's put in the effort. We just want to go for that state championship.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.