CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The boys and girls high school state soccer tournament returns to Beckley today and brings with it quite a punch.
Cinderellas? You bet.
Redemption? Got that, too.
Sissonville, which finished No. 1 in the final state coaches association rankings and is the only undefeated team left in Class AA-A girls division, will kick off the tourney at 9:30 a.m. against No. 3 Fairmont Senior in the semifinals at Carter Field at the YMCA Youth Soccer Complex.
The tournament, which is in its 26th year for boys (1988) and 19th for girls (1995), was moved to Charleston and South Charleston last year after Superstorm Sandy inundated much of the state with rain and snow.
The Charleston Catholic boys and Winfield girls are seeking to set their programs apart in 2013.
The Fighting Irish, the AA-A four-time defending state champions, look to become the first school to win five titles in a row while the defending champion Generals hope to secure their fifth championship overall in AAA.
Wheeling Park holds the mark for both, taking four straight girls AAA championships from 1998-2001 under the one-class system. The state tournament split into AAA and AA-A in 2007.
"When we held [the regional plaque] for that fourth time it all started to set in,'' said Winfield 10th-year coach Marshall Hoff. "You leave that legacy and the program starts to get stronger. The aspiration to reach that goal becomes stronger.''
Bridgeport returns as the reigning Class AA-A girls titlist while a new champion will be crowned in AAA boys after Hurricane failed to advance out of sectional play.
Parkersburg, which has won six state titles, and George Washington, which has won two titles in the past six years, are champing at the bit with the AAA boys title vacated. The Big Reds lost to Hurricane 2-0 in last year's AAA championship match after putting the Patriots out 1-0 in the semis.
If you're looking for upstarts, Winfield's boys and Washington's girls are making their state tournament debuts. Also, the last time Jefferson advanced this far was in 2007.
GW has never won a Class AAA girls title despite three trips to the finals, including last year's 4-2 heartbreak to Winfield in overtime. Sissonville returns to the AA-A girls field after four regional losses in the last five years. Fairmont Senior took it on the chin last year in a 3-2 loss to Bridgeport in the AA-A girls title game. PikeView has lost in the AA-A girls state semis four of the past five years.
The tournament sports tremendous depth with all 16 teams ranked in the final top 20. In addition, all four No. 1s made it and all are from the Kanawha Valley (GW boys and Winfield girls in AAA and Catholic boys and Sissonville girls in AA-A).
No. 1 Winfield plays No. 2 Morgantown in a regular-season rematch in the AAA girls semis. The Generals lost at Morgantown 1-0 Oct. 5. Winfield also lost to the Mohigans 1-0 in a shootout in the 2011 championship.
"[Our players are] looking forward to this match,'' Hoff said. "You never want to leave a match with any what ifs. When we left up there we knew we didn't play to our potential.''
No. 17 Winfield, which knocked off Hurricane and ended the regular season with a losing record, gets another crack at No. 5 Parkersburg. The Generals, who only reached regional play once (2004) prior to this year, lost at Parkersburg 4-0 during the regular season.
The other AAA boys game pits No. 1 George Washington, which is the only undefeated squad left in AAA boys, against No. 10 Jefferson. Top-ranked Catholic faces No. 3 East Fairmont in AA-A boys. GW and Jefferson and Catholic and East Fairmont didn't meet during the season. No. 4 GW faces No. 12 Washington in AAA girls in another matchup of unknowns.