CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Charleston Catholic boys soccer team began the season, expectations were high as always.
That'll happen when you're the four-time defending state champion, but the Fighting Irish struggled at times to find their identity.
Top-ranked Catholic, though, finds itself where it always thought it would be, aiming for a fifth straight AA boys title when it takes on No. 3 East Fairmont at 4:30 p.m. today in the state tournament semifinals at Carter Field at the YMCA Youth Sports Complex in Beckley.
It's been a sometimes bumpy ride for the Irish, who graduated three of their top four goal scorers and starting keeper from last year's team and broke in first-year coach Domenic Cipollone this season.
Catholic saw its 64-match unbeaten streak end and the Irish suffered three losses, including back-to-back defeats, which hadn't occurred since 2008.
"I did have expectations,'' said Cipollone. "I know other people didn't, but I did. I thought [our players] had the skills, they just had to come together as a team.''
It took time, but Catholic found its leaders. Sophomore Joey Trupo has a team-high 33 goals while junior Roger Burdette (14) and sophomore Anthony Cipollone (11) have shouldered some of the scoring pressure. Irish junior keeper and first-time varsity starter Patrick Kline has developed throughout the year.
"I don't think they expected to be as good as last year's team,'' said Domenic Cipollone. "We're not, but we're competitive. We're there with anybody.''
George Washington is one of only two teams in the two-division, 16-team state tournament without a loss.
The Patriots, who finished the regular season No. 1 in AAA boys, will play No. 10 Jefferson at approximately noon in the semis at Cline Field.
GW and Sissonville in AA-A girls are the only squads to not have tasted defeat this season. The Patriots also went the first 11 games without allowing a goal.
"I think that was more of a weight,'' GW veteran coach Tom Hopper said of the shutout streak. "I could sense pressure from that. Being undefeated is a nice luxury. We've found a way to win ballgames in the past we might not have been able to do.''