Kicking down the door
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha Valley will be well represented during today's Class AAA regionals, where the winners will claim state tournament berths.
The Valley has filled half the field in the boys and girls divisions and has the top-ranked boys (George Washington) and girls (Winfield) teams in the state coaches association final rankings.
The George Washington girls were last year's state runner-up, while the Winfield boys are on a roll after finally getting healthy to make their first regional appearance since 2004.
GW (20-0-2), the lone undefeated team left in AAA, will take on No. 12 Woodrow Wilson (12-5-4) at 5 p.m. in the Region 3 boys final at Trace Fork followed by No. 4 GW (18-2-2) facing No. 17 Woodrow Wilson (11-6-4) at approximately 7:30 p.m. in the girls final.
No. 17 Winfield (10-9-3) will square off against No. 8 Huntington at 5 p.m. in the Region 4 boys final at Point Pleasant High School, followed by Winfield (20-1-1) playing No. 9 Spring Valley at approximately 7:30 p.m. in the girls final. (See Page 2B for regional pairings.)
The GW boys had a close call in the sectional title game, squeaking past South Charleston 4-3. It's the most goals the Patriots' defense and all-state keeper Garrett Phillips had given up all year. They've posted 15 shutouts in 22 games.
"I'm so happy to walk away with a victory at this stage,'' said GW veteran coach Tom Hopper. "It seems like there's always one real difficult game where you struggle. And we struggled, we made stupid fouls.''
The Patriots beat Woodrow Wilson 3-1 Sept. 26 at Trace Fork, but the Flying Eagles have won eight in a row heading into regional play and knocked off No. 4 and previously unbeaten Oak Hill for the section crown. GW's Drew Davis, the team's top scorer with 20 goals, has tallied five in the postseason.
The GW girls haven't lost since the middle of September and ran through their sectional like a buzz saw, winning by a combined 20-0 in two games. The Patriots lost in overtime to Winfield in last year's state title game.
"After winning the sectionals, that helped our confidence a lot,'' said GW first-year coach Megan Johnson. "I just think [our players are] in the right mindset and they're ready.
"These girls are strong. They're there because they love to play soccer. I'm just the motivator. They've really done a lot on their own. I think being so close to winning states last year motivates them more because they want that title.''
GW handled Woodrow fairly easy in the regular-season matchup, posting a 5-0 win Sept. 26 in Beckley. The Patriots sport a balanced scoring attack with five players in double figures, led by Sarah Bodnar's 18 goals. And GW has one of the top goalies in the state in Olivia Miller, who has 14 shutouts.
The Winfield girls haven't missed a beat after winning last year's state championship, losing just once this year, and that was a 1-0 setback at No. 2 Morgantown. After falling behind 1-0 for the third straight time this year to Hurricane, the Generals scored the next four goals en route to a 4-2 win in the sectional title game.
The Generals blanked Spring Valley 4-0 Oct. 3 in Winfield. The Generals have myriad offensive weapons in Jayne Lawman (21 goals), who has verbally committed to Marshall, freshman Mary Lawman (19), Jordan Pauley (12) and Mackenzie Pritt (10). Braiden Maddox, who moved to keeper this year, came out of goal and netted two goals against the Redskins in the section final.
The Winfield boys upset defending state champion Hurricane 2-0 for the section crown. It was just the third time this season that the Generals had their starting lineup intact. Winfield tied Huntington 1-1 in the regular season and the Generals lost to the Highlanders 2-1 in the Mountain State Athletic Conference third-place game on an own goal.
Winfield's Steven Taylor, who scored 20-plus goals last season, has 12 in just a handful of games after breaking his collarbone in the season opener and Jesse Richmond has scored 10 times. The Generals have an experienced net minder in Bryce Boggs, who has recorded shutouts in both postseason games.
"It's nice to have everybody back,'' said Winfield coach Mike Foster. "We played most of this year down two or three starters, so it's been pretty hard. We're just trying to pull together.''
In other regional matchups today, No. 5 Parkersburg (17-1-3), last year's state runner-up in the boys division, takes on No. 3 Morgantown (17-3-2) in Region 1 and No. 6 Buckhannon-Upshur (20-2) plays No. 10 Jefferson (16-2-2) in Region 2.
On the girls side, Morgantown (15-1-4) squares off with No. 7 Parkersburg South (13-6-2) in Region 1 and No. 6 Elkins (14-3-3) takes on No. 12 Washington (14-6-2) in Region 2.
The Class AA-A boys and girls regionals get underway Thursday.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.