For all the talk of graduation, development and youth surrounding Charleston Catholic and Winfield, a pair of perennial powers in boys prep soccer, both entered a late-September showdown on Thursday with undefeated records.
After a match that displayed the progress and promise of both teams, they both exited that way as well.
Winfield’s Braxton Vanscoy scored a goal late in the first half that was finally answered with just 2:59 remaining in the second on a header from Zion Suddeth as the Irish (9-0-1) and Generals (10-0-1) played to a 1-1 draw at Schoenbaum Stadium.
It was a tale of two halves, with the Generals largely controlling things in the first and Catholic pushing for an equalizer throughout most of the second. In the end, the result left both coaches with plenty to be encouraged about and plenty of teaching points moving forward.
“I am remarkably impressed with our defensive backs who stepped in having not played a lot in varsity games,” Catholic coach Niall Paul said. “They’ve stepped in and have held it down. I’m very proud of them.
“Our midfield, our forwards are certainly exciting to watch and when they’re doing what we want them to do it’s a fun way to play soccer. It’s not nearly as controlled or calm for me as I’m used to, but it’s fun to watch. We’ve got a ton more work to do if we want to be there in the end. We’re not going to get there if we play like we did today.”
“Our midfield is doing a lot better,” Winfield coach Mike Foster said. “The midfield is working better and that was our big problem with what system we play. We’re getting some good play out of our wings. We need a little better up front and we were getting burnt up on the left side of our defense. In my opinion [Generals goalkeeper Nathan Lanham] is the best keeper in the state. He blocked a couple of nice ones tonight that should’ve went in.”
“From [a preseason scrimmage against] Point Pleasant to here it’s a vast improvement, but we’ve still got a lot of work.”
The two entered Thursday’s tussle with the Irish ranked third and the Generals fourth in the latest West Virginia High School Soccer Coaches Association poll. For the Generals, the defending Class AA-A champions, the result snapped a 20-game win streak dating back to a 3-3 tie against Ripley on Oct. 2 of last year. Winfield hasn’t lost since a regional final defeat to eventual champion Nitro in the 2017 postseason, a string of 36 matches. That despite losing two players from both the first and second teams on the 2018 Class AA-A All-State list.
The Irish, meanwhile, lost five such players, including Kanawha Valley Player of the Year Ethan Malinoski, a goalkeeper now at WVU. Catholic’s entire back line was lost to graduation with all of its experience returning in the midfield and at forward, leaving Paul to change formation and mentality to a more attacking style.
Freshman John Patnoe has taken over between the pipes, stepping into some big vacated cleats from Malinoski. After Vanscoy snuck a ball into the net off a ricochet, Patnoe and the defense were able to hold. Through 10 games, the Irish have yielded just five goals despite the turnover.
“God bless him, right?” Paul said. “We had a junior and a sophomore and they both got hurt so Patnoe was it. We didn’t even have a backup goalie. He’s stepped in he’s done so well. He’s made very few mistakes and he’s just a brave kid.”
Lanham made six saves for Winfield, with five of them coming in the second half as the Irish pushed the tempo. Aidan Paul took seven corner kicks for Catholic with the seventh and final one finding the head of Suddeth who directed the ball into the net in just the nick of time. Patnoe finished with three saves for Catholic.
Though the tie against a fellow state-title contender on the road wasn’t a horrible result for Winfield, Foster said his team needs to show more poise in trying to finish off good teams in the future.
“We just lost our composure there in the second half,” Foster said. “If we can just put a couple of passes together it can change the momentum of the game, we just weren’t doing that.”