GW edged defending state champion Hurricane 1-0, took a 2-1 win at Parkersburg, last year's state runner-up, and a 1-0 win at Wheeling Park. The Patriots also had a pair of 1-1 ties with Charleston Catholic and Parkersburg.
"If you'd ask me at the beginning of the season I would have thought we would have had some speed bumps,'' Hopper said. "We've played some really solid clubs and we've been able to score and our defense has kept things in check. The stars aligned for us.''
Senior Drew Davis (20 goals), Daniel Glines (13) and Noah Miller (12) have carried the load while senior all-state goalie Garrett Phillips has been a brick wall in net.
"When we started back in August we knew we had more talent than we've had in a long time across the board,'' said Hopper, who guided GW to state titles in 2007 and 2011. "The team that we put out there is pretty much solid all the way through.''
It's hard to figure out why one team advances and another doesn't in the postseason.
"This group is very special,'' said Sissonville girls coach Ali Sadeghian. "They're more determined and dedicated and work harder. That's the difference compared to the teams we've had in the past. They have a nice chemistry together.''
The Indians have parlayed those intangibles into their first trip to states since 2011. Top-ranked Sissonville will square off with No. 3 and 2012 state runner-up Fairmont Senior at 9:30 a.m. today in AA-A girls, kicking off the state tourney semifinals at Carter Field.
Prior to this year, Sissonville lost to Catholic in regional play four of the past five years. The Indians fell to Grafton 2-0 in the 2011 title game when they also entered states with the top ranking.
Sophomores Madison Jones and Karli Pinkerton lead Sissonville's attack with 38 goals apiece. Senior Mary Schmeck has contributed 15 goals and junior Taylor Rhodes 11. Sophomore Brooke Reed is one of the most athletic keepers around.
"They've been playing other sports together through middle school,'' said Sadeghian. "They're very close. It's created a bond among the majority of the team. The work ethic is by far the best we've had. They will just not quit.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.