This is the second of a two-part series previewing Kanawha and Putnam county high school soccer teams. Today’s installment takes a look at Putnam County.
By Tommy R. Atkinson
Looking around at the competition in the state, Winfield coach Marshall Hoff knows how difficult it will be to claim a third straight Class AAA girls championship.
“The girls do know what it’s going to take to get back and pull off a goal that’s impossible in this day and time with all the talent spread throughout the state,’’ he said. “It’s going to take everything we’ve got. We’ll dig in. The girls are prepared to do that.’’
The Generals are well versed in being the target of opponents, but that has hardly mattered as they’ve marched to back-to-back state titles — shutting out Washington 2-0 in the 2013 championship — the past two seasons and compiling a 43-2-2 record. Winfield begins finding out what it will take this time around as the season kicks off today across the state.
“The biggest thing is we have no problem drawing everybody’s best game,’’ Hoff said. “You bring that level of play no matter who you’re playing. It’s going to definitely be one of those situations it’s going to take everything we can muster with all of our might. We’re definitely set for it.’’
Jayne Lawman, the reigning AAA state player of the year and captain of the all-state first team as tabbed by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association in 2013, leads the way in pursuit of Winfield’s first three-peat since taking the first three girls titles (1995-97). The senior, who verbally committed to Marshall last year, scored 23 goals and was the driving force behind a 23-1-1 record.
Junior Kaylee Cross also returns after earning AAA all-state first-team honors for her defensive work. Sophomore Mary Lawman, Jayne’s younger sister, added 23 goals, and other returnees include junior M.E. Zulauf, junior Jordan Pauley (14 goals) and junior MacKenzie Pritt (10 goals).
Senior Josee Erlandson, junior Katie Bryant, junior Kalyn McCray and senior Brooke Humphreys are back at starting positions. Senior Hailey Evans, the backup goalkeeper the last couple of seasons, and Erlandson will trade off on duties. Freshmen Sydney Cavender and Cami Frye should lend depth off the bench.
“I think you end up finding yourself in a place of anticipation,’’ said Hoff. “We’ve got some good leaders stepping up. It’s always a lot of work to do yet, but I think we’ll be ready. We grow a little more each day.’’
The only other squad from Putnam to advance to the state tournament in 2013 was the Winfield boys team, which made it to the AAA state semifinals for the first time in school history before losing 2-1 to eventual state runner-up Parkersburg.
The Generals (11-10-3 last year) return five starters off that squad, which was decimated by injuries all year long, using its regular starting lineup just four times.
Senior Steven Taylor was the top scorer with 15 goals during an injury-plagued season, while senior Jesse Richmond added 11 goals. Seniors Nathan Keefe (four goals), Noah Laliberty (defender), Austin Miller (defender) and Nikko Stilianoudakis (midfielder) give this group big-game experience. Senior C.T. Douglas will step in at keeper for the first time at the varsity level.
“I think going to states helped,’’ said Winfield coach Mike Foster. “I just think we’ll be competitive. We’ve got a lot of things to work out but we’ve got a lot of senior leadership.
“They’ve got the talent. We’ll see if they can put it to work. They’ve got a lot of promise. It just depends on if they want to put the work in.’’
Here’s a quick glance, in alphabetical order, at how the remaining schools in Putnam County are shaping up (last year’s records in parentheses):
Hurricane (12-7-3): The Redskins are in transition again as first-year coach Court Vorhees takes over. Senior Loran Meadows is the top returning player after netting 26 goals last season.
Hurricane (15-2-3): Redskins seniors Abby Watson, who notched 26 goals, and Taylor Coalter (defender) earned AAA all-state first-team honors after last season. Seniors Audrey Barber, who also totaled 26 goals, and Lauren London (defender) are also back.
Poca (5-15-1): The Dots lost most of their offensive punch to graduation but seniors Mariah Cook (forward) and Kendall Sayre (goalkeeper) will provide a steady hand to the lineup.
Note: Buffalo does not field boys or girls soccer teams while Poca does not field a boys team.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.