Charleston Catholic’s boys and girls soccer teams checked the first box in their respective seasons on Saturday afternoon at Shawnee Athletic Complex.
The Irish girls won their seventh straight Bishop’s Cup with a 3-0 win over St. Joseph and the boys claimed their third straight with a 7-1 conquest of Wheeling Central.
The Bishop’s Cup is contested between the Catholic schools in the state and has largely been dominated by Charleston Catholic, with the girls winning all but two trophies since 2002 and the boys now claiming 12 of the last 13.
The boys blitzed the Maroon Knights early and often with David Kershner registering a hat trick as part of the offensive explosion.
A year after losing its entire defensive backfield as well as the Kanawha Valley player of the year in goalkeeper Ethan Malinoski, Charleston Catholic, once defensive-minded, has had to adjust to a more up-tempo attacking style. So far through a 4-0 start, the Irish have adapted well to the new philosophy.
“One-hundred percent,” coach Niall Paul said when asked if the personnel has changed the team’s strategy. “We are very different. We’ve changed our shape dramatically from years past. The shape is different, the style is different — it’s much more on the front foot. It’s fun, but it’s risky. Our boys have stood tall so far.”
Adding to Kershner’s total were single goals for Eric Borman, Wil Swan, Billy Ford and Tyler Barnette. Swan and Kershner figure to play heavy parts in the Catholic offense, as do Aidan Paul, Zion Suddeth and Philip Acklin, all returning starters in the midfield and forward spots.
Borman has filled in at center back to try to anchor the defense in front of new freshman goalkeeper John Patone.
Niall Paul admitted there is still plenty of improvement to be made and that the inexperience on the back end could be worrisome against some opponents, but winning the Bishop’s Cup is an early source of confirmation that the team is on the right track.
“We played a quality team today and at times got lucky and at times played well as a team,” Paul said. “My first year coaching we lost the Bishop’s Cup for the first time in a while, so it is a point of pride for me.
“We can be exposed, but hopefully we’ll learn each day. That’s what we talk about, getting better each day. So far, so good.”
The Charleston Catholic girls team had its own losses to graduation but brings experience back on all levels. The 3-0 score may not have been a direct representation of how good Catholic looked on Saturday as it outshot St. Joseph 29-1. Led by first-team All-State defender Audrey Miller, now just a junior, Catholic clamped down on a potent St. Joseph attack.
“Our defense played well, I didn’t have to make any changes to our defense at all,” coach Amy Mullen said. “We just had trouble getting back that goalkeeper and center defender. She saved almost everything we shot at her.”
St. Joseph’s Samantha Richbart made 10 saves and helped keep her team in the game in the face of a constantly attacking Catholic front. Save for a few minutes midway through the second half, Catholic maintained possession and kept the pressure up behind returning starters Lindsay Carr, Bella Cinco, Jill Uy, Hannah Rahin and others.
Carr, a midfielder, was also a first-team All-State selection a year ago, and all of the aforementioned players are underclassmen.
Catholic will play Winfield next week in a battle of local Class AA-A contenders, but with plenty of firepower up front and Miller leading the defense in front of senior keeper Katie Nester in the back, Catholic should be on the short list of state title contenders yet again.
Catholic has made four straight state championship game appearances but has finished as the runner up three years in a row.
“It is really fun,” Mullen said. “We are solid and I can sub at any time and not feel any pain. The freshman are young and they’re just not as big, but having a strong junior class is nice. It makes you feel not as vulnerable. But I’m excited to see what this team can do.”
Uy scored Catholic’s first goal at the 26:01 mark of the first half. Catholic wouldn’t find the net again until 7:37 remaining in the game when freshman Shannon Karr took a feed from Rahin and beat Richbart.
Karr is part of a big freshman class that includes 11 players, including Mullen’s third daughter, Claire. Cinco added the last tally with just 44 seconds left.