Prep soccer: Valley teams should claim bulk of state titles this week
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the 25th West Virginia State High School Soccer Tournament kicking off Tuesday at Schoenbaum Stadium and Trace Fork it is limb-climbing time.
But before I get to my picks to take home championship trophies Wednesday let's take a look at some of the storylines that will unfold over the next two days.
The George Washington girls will try once again to shed their bridesmaid tag.
The Charleston Catholic boys look to keep a 53-match unbeaten streak going on the way to record its fourth consecutive title.
The Winfield girls go for the title again after being eliminated in the semifinals with 17 seconds remaining two years ago and losing in a shootout in last season's championship.
The George Washington boys will try to repeat in what many expected a rebuilding year for the Patriots.
The Charleston Catholic girls return to the State Tournament after being eliminated in sectional play last season. The Irish won the first three Class AA-A titles prior to that.
Then there is the Hurricane boys squad.
Perhaps the most dominant team during the regular season in the state over the last few years the Redskins have yet to pick a championship trophy to show for their efforts.
"These seniors have only lost two regular season games," Hurricane Coach Jim Dagostine said. "They're pretty good."
The Redskins record over the past four seasons is 77-5-9.
So which teams will come out on top?
On the boys side I am going with Charleston Catholic and Hurricane.
Okay, not exactly bold choices.
Led by senior Sam Revercomb, the Irish (21-0-2) will win because they are the best team.
Those two ties came against Class AAA No. 2 Parkersburg and Class AAA No. 5 George Washington.
Next year's team will get to start the season with a 55-game unbeaten streak and see what it can do with it.
With a 20-0-1 record and ranked first, the Redskins may look like a lock in Class AAA. But remember they have been in this position before and fallen short.
Attitude makes this year's Hurricane team different.
The Redskins have an edge to them that previous teams did not.
In the past, opponents respected and often admired the Hurricane team.
This year opponents seem to dislike the Redskins.
There were even some "USA, USA" chants during the season from opposing fans aimed at the three South American exchange students on the Hurricane team.
How have the Redskins reacted?
"I think it has brought them closer together," Dagostine said.
One of those South Americans, Felipe Thompson, led the area and Mountain State Athletic Conference in scoring with 46 goals.
Whatever the reasons, this year's Redskins seem to have a chip on their collective shoulder that could be the difference maker.
George Washington did a good job just getting back to the State Tournament. If the fifth-ranked Patriots can get past second-ranked Parkersburg in the semifinals, they will have over-achieved.
IN THE GIRLS brackets, area teams may have more trouble.
The Charleston Catholic first round-match may well determine the state champion. The Irish face Bridgeport, which they tied 1-1 early in the season.
Charleston Catholic (14-5-2) and the Indians (18-4-1) suffered their losses to Class AAA opponents. The young Irish could still be a year away.
So the pick in Class AA-A is the more veteran Bridgeport team.
Class AAA is loaded this year with the first-, second-, third-, and sixth-ranked squads in the field.
Top-ranked Morgantown has a 22-0-1 record while second-ranked Buckhannon-Upshur comes in at 22-1-0 with its only loss a 3-1 decision to the Mohigans.
Winfield is third and has a 17-1-2 mark losing 4-3 to Parkersburg.
George Washington comes into the tournament with a 17-4-1 record with three of the losses coming against the other State Tournament teams.
The Patriots fourth loss was to Princeton and they turned that around in the regional final.
So where did that one blemish on Morgantown's record come from? From a 1-1 tie with the Generals.
The George Washington program is sorely due to win a title and the Patriots five seniors - Charlie Lucente, Haley Claudio, Andrea Breeden, Stephanie Kelly and Catherine Geis - would love to finish their careers in style.
But nobody is hungrier than the Winfield players who have endured back-to-back near misses.
Led by forwards Emily Cole and Jayne Lawman and keeper Sarah Burchette, the Generals have learned to embrace pressure and seemed poised to win this year.
Look for Winfield to collect a record-tying fourth girls crown a full 15 years after winning their last one.
Boys Class AA-A play begins at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Trace Fork with Class AAA girls action starting at 10 a.m. at Schoenbaum.