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Hurricane boys have come together in pursuit of soccer title

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sure, the undefeated record and No. 1 ranking are nice, but that's not what impresses Hurricane coach Jim Dagostine about his Redskins.

"Over the course of the year, one of the things most satisfying to me was to watch the acceptance of the exchange students,'' said Dagostine, who starts two players from Brazil and one from Chile.

"There's more to this than just soccer. The way our guys feel about them ... to watch that come together, it's a nice thing. Yes, we're happy it worked out from a soccer standpoint, [but] we've got good kids.''

The Redskins (21-0-1), the top-ranked team in the Class AAA state coaches association final rankings, blended together an eclectic mix that has produced one of only three unbeaten records in the state, regardless of class or gender.

Hurricane hopes that will be enough to finally secure its first championship as it heads into next week's state tournament in Charleston. (See Page 2B for pairings and schedule.)

Redskins senior Felipe Thompson, who is from Santiago, Chile, is the leading scorer in the Kanawha Valley with 46 goals, while Brazilian countrymen Rodrigo Bevaqua and Matheus Morgan, also seniors, have contributed mightily. Bevaqua has nine goals while Morgan has shored up the midfield.

Then add in Hurricane seniors Trevor Cunningham (12 goals) and Alex White (11), senior Daniel McKnight in the midfield, senior defenders Austin Conley and Evan and Ian Miles and junior keeper Tim Hayslett, who just began starting halfway through the season, and you've got an imposing lineup.

"You either make it work and get something out of this or we can all have our own agendas,'' Dagostine said. "If it doesn't work, we're all miserable.

"You learn to accept each other and appreciate each other and work real hard. I'd say probably the whole team exceeded what we expected. That's the kids being together every day and spending time with each other. We went from pretty decent to pretty good.''

Hurricane has been down this road before, each time failing in either the semifinals or state championship game. The Redskins lost to George Washington 1-0 in the title game in 2007, fell to Wheeling Park 2-1 on penalty kicks in the semis in 2010 and lost 1-0 to eventual state titlist George Washington in 2011 in the semis.

"For years people in Hurricane didn't even know where the state tournament was because they never went,'' said Dagostine, who has guided the Redskins to states four out of six seasons.

"I'm proud to get there. It's a tough tournament to get to. Have we had any luck there? I don't think it's luck. It's whomever we played beat us. Of course we feel good about having another opportunity.''

The Redskins have been tested several times this season, but their talent has always shined through.

Hurricane beat No. 4 Winfield three times, including the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship and the sectional title games, trailed No. 7 South Charleston at halftime before pulling out a 3-2 win and most recently edged Huntington 2-1 in the regional after the Highlanders forged a 1-all tie just before halftime.

"We just need to worry about ourselves,'' Dagostine said. "We didn't come off a very good regional game. Huntington had a lot to do with that.

"The kids hung in there and made enough plays to get through it. We need to get our house in order and just come play hard and play the game the way we're capable of playing it.''

The Redskins' only blemish was a 1-1 draw with Parkersburg, which advanced to states, in the regular-season finale. Hurricane and Parkersburg are in different brackets of the state tournament, so if both win they will meet in the title game.

 "Somebody asked me, 'Going into it unbeaten, is that an issue?''' said Dagostine. "Our guys don't even think about that. It's been all about just playing your next game. [Our players are] not going in with any baggage. This group all year has been confident.

"They think they're good enough to beat whoever they play. I think the real test for them was the regional where they were really having some difficulties. Just fighting for everything they got. I think they've got the mental, physical and emotional makeup to go get it done.''

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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