Soccer preview: What can they do for an encore?
The Kanawha Valley had a banner season last year for boys and girls soccer.
The Valley had teams playing in all four boys and girls championship games with Charleston Catholic (Class AA-A boys) and George Washington (AAA boys) bringing home titles. Sissonville (AA-A girls) and Winfield (AAA girls) lost in their championship bids.
In all, Kanawha and Putnam County squads accounted for six of the 16 schools competing in the state tourney in the four divisions (AAA boys and girls and AA-A boys and girls). Hurricane (AAA boys) and Nitro (AAA girls) also made the semifinals.
Here's a quick look at those teams and a few others in the Valley as teams approach this weekend's season openers:
If there's any pressure, the Fighting Irish don't seem to be showing it.
"Our practices have been very loose,'' said Catholic coach Sam Fox, whose team finished with a 23-0-2 record. "Every time we take the field we know we're going to get someone's best game. I don't think the kids would want it any other way.''
Catholic will lean on seniors Sam Revercomb, Adam Fox, Domenic Cippollone, Luke Smith, Mitchell Stanley, William Scriptunas and Tanner Whipkey. Revercomb, who was tied for the second-most goals in the Valley with 22, Fox, who added 19, and Cippollone, a defender, were coaches association first-team all-state selections.
Juniors Philip Mallory and Noah Cable and senior keeper Mitchel Thorsteinson will move into the starting lineup.
"They have played together since they were 10 years old,'' Sam Fox said. "They know each other very, very well.
"I think the fact all five of those guys are good friends will help us out this year. Last year is going to be hard to live up to. I'm seeing some of the younger players step up. I think we'll certainly be competitive.''
"We're pretty much starting from scratch again although I think we have some quality players that will be able to step in and keep the program alive,'' said Patriots coach Tom Hopper. "They'll give people some fits I think.''
Those are senior midfielder Garrett Horner, senior Caleb Barnette, who will anchor the defense, and junior keeper Garrett Phillips, who was the backup last year.
"I think there's been a lot of enthusiasm,'' Hopper said. "A lot of guys are fighting for a spot on varsity. It's been pretty intense. There's certainly a lot of potential there. I think the kids want to work hard and do well and that's probably half the battle.''
Seniors Alex White, Austin Conley, Trevor Cunningham, Evan Miles and Ian Miles and sophomore James Snavely return to starting positions. Seniors Daniel McKnight and Mark Schiffour, sophomore Loran Meadows, who started several games last year, and juniors Alex Kayuha and Nick Young will slide into the starting lineup.
Cunningham was the leading scorer with 12 goals, Ian Miles was a first-team all-state pick from his defender position while White was a second-team selection at midfielder.
Juniors Brady Lawman and Tim Hayslett will be fighting for goalie duties. Three exchange students - Rodrigo Bevaqua and Matheous Morgan of Brazil and Felipe Thompson of Chile - will provide depth.
"Just because guys are returning doesn't mean everything's OK,'' said Redskins coach Jim Dagostine. "There's really more questions than we've ever had to deal with. I can't help believe we're going to be a better team as the season goes along.''
The Wildcats lost nine seniors, but bring back young talent in junior Laine Roberts, the team's top scorer with 13 goals, sophomore Savannah Miller, who had 10 goals before moving to keeper near the end of the season, and junior keeper Becca Hall, whose year was cut short by knee surgery.
"No one needs to count us out,'' said Nitro coach Kim Aurelio, who led an unranked squad to the 2008 state title. "We have a great amount of skill. The girls that are there from last year have improved greatly.''
The Indians graduated six starters but return two of their top three scorers from a squad that finally broke through and advanced to states after losing the past three years in the region finals, including two defeats in overtime.
Junior reigning forward of the year Lydia Murray has 97 goals in her three-year career and will be chasing the Kanawha Valley record of 130 set by former Sissonville standout Rebekah Kendall.
Murray, who tallied 35 goals last year, will have some help from sophomore Taylor Rhodes, who netted 12 goals in her first season in the starting lineup. Senior all-state player Shelby Swiney will captain the defense.
The Generals will miss starters Haleigh Hoff, the team's leading scorer with 27 goals (and is now playing at Kentucky), and Amanda Clark, an all-state defender, but those are the only starting positions that will be open.
Jayne Lawman was the second-leading scorer with 20 goals as a freshman, senior Emily Cole chipped in 17 and junior Paige Bannister added 12. Senior Erin Midkiff and senior keeper Faith Burchett spearheaded a defense that surrendered just one goal in five postseason games.
Senior Preston Sheldon netted 20 goals last season as Winfield (13-6-2) finished No. 9 in AAA. ... Senior Anthony Rinehart earned AA-A first-team all-state honors after scoring 17 goals for No. 16 Sissonville. ... Riverside (13-8-1) finished with its highest ranking at No. 14 in AAA and returns junior Cameron Norris, who was the second-leading scorer with 19 goals. ... No. 18 Capital (11-10-1) should be much improved coming off its upset of No. 1 GW in the AAA sectionals with senior Katie Crowder, the top scorer with 15 goals, senior keeper Michelle Newhouse, a first-team all state selection. ... AA-A No. 11 Catholic (9-9-1) continues to rebuild behind Anna Whelan, a second-team all-state forward. ... Senior first-team all-state midfielder Charlie Lucente and sophomore keeper Olivia Miller look to keep GW (17-2-2), which ended the regular season No. 1 in AAA, on the winning track. ... Sophomore Abby Watson is coming off a fine freshmen campaign in which she tallied a team-high 16 goals for AAA No. 5 Hurricane (15-4-1). ... AA-A No. 4 Poca (17-5-1) set a school record for wins and should be strong again with junior Harley Hutchins, who netted 28 goals and was a first-team all-state forward, and senior Marisa Perkins (nine goals) returning. ... Cassie Hammes notched 19 goals for AA-A No. 16 Herbert Hoover (8-10-2).
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.