Prep soccer: There are no more 'what ifs' with Winfield girls
BECKLEY, W.Va. -- It would be hard to accuse the Winfield girls soccer team of looking too far into the future and not focusing on the task at hand.
Sometimes a team -- especially one as good as the Generals -- can fall into the bad habit of looking ahead on the schedule and not putting the proper preparation into the current obstacle.
Not Winfield. Not this year.
During the interview session following the Generals 2-0 win against Washington in the Class AAA state championship game Saturday a member of the media asked the group -- players Jordan Pauley, Braiden Maddox and Jayne Lawman along with Coach Marshall Hoff -- what they would do for an encore.
There were several ways the honest question could have been answered, but the players showed just how sharp that focus was on the present and gave an honest answer.
"We're going to Hibachi," Maddox said to send the room into a fit of laughter.
The task at hand after the game was a nice meal at a Japanese steakhouse, but all season it was to return to Beckley and be the final team standing at the State Tournament.
There were tests along the way -- against George Washington (a state semifinalist), a trio of matches against Putnam County rival Hurricane, the lone loss of the season against Morgantown and a rematch with the Mohigans in the semifinals -- but Hoff said at no point did he ever think his team would not be the one to lift the trophy at the end of the season.
"You come into every season, I believe every good coach does, you don't set to run the race for anything less than the prize. People ask me, 'Do you see yourself being here today,'" Hoff said. "With this group of young ladies that have made this journey there was no doubt."
On a day when there were three 1-0 championship games it appeared Pauley's first half strike against Washington could be enough to send the Generals to a fifth state title. Lawman added another goal early in the second half but Hoff wouldn't let himself celebrate until the final minutes of the match.
When the final horn sounded Winfield stood alone in several ways - as back-to-back Class AAA state champions and as the most decorated girls soccer program in state history. The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Committee began awarding state championships for girls soccer in 1995. Since then, no other program has more state titles than Winfield's five.
The players had no idea of the historical significance of the win when it was brought up during the interview but said it was an honor to contribute to such a significant achievement.
"That's awesome," Lawman said. "It shows our hard work pays off and I think that's awesome."
For Winfield's seniors, it was the end of a run that saw the Generals qualify for four state tournaments and play in the last three championship games.
"This senior class has made this journey -- 2010, 2011 and right on through," Hoff said. "They finished this with intensity and that's what this program is about. To look and see that, to know they've been here four times, I knew without a doubt there would be no 'what ifs' left with them."
The Generals lose seniors in Maddox, Mackenzie Arthur, Anika Shah, Micharae Thompson, Paige Bannister, Ashleigh Swain, Lauren Prevett and Kalika Ferell but return plenty of talent with Lawman (who was named Mountain State Athletic Conference Player of the Year on Monday), current sophomores Pauley, Kaylee Cross, Kaylyn McKray and M.E. Zulaf along with freshman Mary Lawman.
"We're the best at what we do," Hoff said. "We can run against anything."
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at email@example.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.