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Prep soccer: Healthy Winfield rolls into states

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Of all the teams participating in this weekend's soccer State Tournament in Beckley, perhaps none appear to be more out of place than the Winfield boys.

The Generals, after all, entered the postseason with a sub-.500 record that has improved to 11-9-3 with wins against Nitro and Hurricane in the sectional round and a dramatic 3-2 victory against Huntington in the Class AAA Region 4 title game last week at Point Pleasant High School.

In the final five games of the regular season Winfield posted a 0-4-1 record, with losses to Parkersburg South, Huntington, Charleston Catholic and Cabell Midland.

If one were to judge this book by its cover it could probably be reasoned that the Generals are a team that doesn't belong among West Virginia high school soccer blue bloods like George Washington and Winfield's semifinal opponent, Parkersburg.

That assumption could be dangerous for any team that might take the Generals lightly.

"This means a lot to me and the team," Winfield Coach Mike Foster said after the regional win. "It's been a rough year but it's the second time a Winfield team has ever been to the regionals and the first time they've won it. When I settle down I'll realize it but right now it's just great."

Winfield was a team on the mend for most of the 2013 season and was without the services of junior Steven Taylor through the majority of its schedule. Taylor broke his collar bone in the season opener, but still managed to lead the team with 15 goals during the regular season and tournament play, including all three of the Generals' scores against Huntington last week.

His first goal came from a strong individual effort, the second from a corner kick that fell right to his feet and the third, after Huntington rallied back to tie the game at 2-2, came in the final minutes to lift Winfield to its first State Tournament appearance.

"That was one of the best games we've ever played," Taylor said. "It was amazing."

Winfield is much more than a one-man team. Juniors Jesse Richmond (10 goals, seven assists) and Nathan Keefe (four goals, four assists) each had assists in the Region 4 championship game and are joined by seniors Ronnie Beale (five goals, five assists) and Hunter Sheldon (three goals, four assists) as players the Generals lean on to lead.

Keefe's assist came on the corner, Richmond's on the game-winner with 2 minutes to play. Taylor said it was the team's mindset that carried them late in the game against Huntington and it is that mindset, perhaps, that will prove vital in Beckley this weekend.

"We had the mindset (that it was a 0-0 game) when it was 1-0 at halftime," he said. "We could not let up any, and had to come out with the same intensity. We had to have the same mindset to comeback and we did it in the last couple of minutes."

Winfeld and Parkersburg (18-2-2) met once during the regular season, with the Mountain State Athletic Conference runner-up Big Reds taking a 4-0 win on Sept. 19 in Parkersburg. That was a very different Winfield team than the one that is two wins from a state championship.

"It's been a long season," Foster said. "We didn't have a winning regular season and we've had a lot of people injured. We're just starting to put it back together. Steven's played only a handful of games because he had a broken collarbone at the beginning of the season. We're glad to have him back. He's still not 100 percent but he's nice to have back. We still got a couple others that aren't 100 percent but we're starting to put it together."

Winfeld and Parkersburg open the Class AAA portion of the tournament at 10 a.m. Friday at the Beckley YMCA Soccer Complex's Cline Field.


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