Prep soccer: Kanawha Valley teams seek titles
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Postseason soccer returns to West Virginia this week and, like many years, the Kanawha Valley is home to a handful of schools among the favorites to win state championships.
And while there are heavyweights such as the defending Class AAA girls champion Winfield or multiple time and current Class AA/A boys title holder Charleston Catholic there are also several teams with the ability to keep chalk off the brackets.
One of the more intriguing sectional matches in the draw comes in Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 with defending boys state champ Hurricane traveling to play much-improved St. Albans at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"Can't take anything away from Hurricane," St. Albans Coach Cameron Ashley said. "They've been on fire lately. We're planning for them and they're planning for us."
The Redskins (10-6-3) have been up and down this season but enter the postseason on a three-game win streak having outscored its last three opponents 16-2. The duo of Guillermo Ugarte and Loran Meadows have combined to form one of the most formidable scoring tandems in the state, but the Red Dragons (10-8-2) can counter with offense of their own.
Jack Wiles has been among the leading goal scorers in the Kanawha Valley this season and is a big reason for St. Albans' emergence as something more than an afterthought.
"(Wiles) is a true goal scorer but more importantly he's a leader on the team," Ashley said. "He's one of those players that will go up to someone if they're having an off game and say, 'Calm down, relax, play your style of soccer and it will work out.' "
Hurricane and St. Albans played once this season with the Red Dragons earned a 3-1 win on Sept. 26.
SISSONVILLE AND Charleston Catholic enter the Class AA-A Region 4 girls tournament on an apparent path for a rematch of last season's regional title game that saw the Irish upset the Indians on their way to the state tournament.
Each team has spent time as the No. 1 team in the West Virginia High School Soccer Coaches Association rankings with Sissonville (17-0-3) taking the top ranking into the postseason. Not surprisingly, Catholic (17-1-2) begins the playoffs at No. 2.
"I think we're looking forward to it," Irish Coach Amy Mullen said. "We ended on a tough schedule and I think it's gotten us prepared to be where we need to be for sectionals and hopefully regionals."
Catholic ended its regular season with a run of games against PikeView (a state tournament team a year ago), Bridgeport (last year's Class AA/A state champion), University, in-town rival George Washington, Fairmont Senior (a state tournament team in 2012), Huntington, Hurricane and PikeView again and posted a 4-1-3 record during the span. The Irish will play the winner of Monday's Scott-Sherman game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Poca High School.
Two of the Indians' draws came in the final weeks of the regular season, but Sissonville boasts a defense that allowed 13 goals in 20 games and features two of the best offensive players in the state in sophomores Karli Pinkerton and Madison Jones.
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THE CLASS AAA Region 3 Section 1 boys and girls tournaments will take place at the Trace Fork Soccer Complex this week with plenty of local flavor.
The winner of Monday's Riverside-Capital game will take on top-seed George Washington (17-0-2) at 8 p.m. Thursday. Resurgent South Charleston (9-4-4) is the No. 2 seed and plays Ripley at 6 p.m. Thursday. The championship game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
GW holds the No. 1 seed on the girls side as well, with the Patriots (16-2-2) set to play the winner of Monday's Ripley-South Charleston game at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Capital (3-10-1) takes on Riverside (9-6-2) in the other semifinal match with the championship taking place at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
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CHARLESTON CATHOLIC begins its quest for a fifth consecutive Class AA/A boys title at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Monday's St. Joseph-Herbert Hoover match in Region 4 Section 2. Sissonville plays tournament-host Scott at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday with the championship game slated for 7 p.m. Thursday.
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.