CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- George Washington has a notorious rap at the state tournament.
The Patriots have advanced to the semifinals eight previous times, but are still seeking their first championship after losses in the championship game in 1999 and 2010.
Last year GW didn't even make it out of sectional play after finishing the regular season No. 1 in Class AAA.
But this year's GW squad won't be prisoners of the past and is waiting to seize another chance to do what other teams have failed to accomplish time and again when the state semis begin Tuesday at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium. (See Page 2B for pairings and schedule.)
"Right now they're just excited to be back [at the state tournament],'' said GW first-year coach Derek Ragle. "I don't think they're thinking too much about the past. They're going to write their own story."
The Patriots (17-4-1), who finished sixth in the final state coaches association rankings, have done just that, shaking off some late-season losses to propel themselves deep into the postseason.
GW learned some hard lessons in falling to No. 3 Winfield (4-1), No. 4 Princeton (2-0) in the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship game, and AAA No. 1 and nationally ranked Morgantown (3-0) in the last few weeks of the regular season.
The Patriots then embarked on their revenge tour, knocking off Capital 2-0 in the sectional final after getting upset by the Cougars last season in the semis, and edging Princeton 1-0 in the regionals.
"I think we just started playing our best soccer at the right time,'' Ragle said. "We finished the year playing some really tough teams - Hurricane, Winfield, Princeton, Morgantown. We really just buckled down. We went out and challenged ourselves on our schedule and it paid off. We got ourselves [in the state tournament].''
The Patriots battled through a phalanx of six regional finalists (Parkersburg, Wheeling Park, Morgantown, Buckhannon-Upshur, Princeton and Winfield) during the season, dropping all but two games in preparation for their journey.
GW also proved that it could overcome any obstacle after persevering through injuries to key starters over the last half of the schedule. The Patriots played without sophomore starter Kasey Rhodes for most of the sectional and the entire regional.