The high school soccer season will officially begin today. Here is a preview of area squads.
Last season ended with some unfinished business for the Tigers after the team dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Big 10 Conference rival Buckhannon-Upshur in the Class AAA Region II, Section 2 championship game.
The Inter-Mountain file photo
Players from Grafton and Philip Barbour battle for a loose ball during a game last year. The high school soccer season will begin today.
The Inter-Mountain file photo
Elkins and Lewis County players look to gain possession during a contest last season.
According to coach Andy Montgomery, losing the championship game has made the 16 returning lettermen hungry to prove themselves on the field. This year, 23 players reported to camp.
"This is the most determined group we have had in a while," Montgomery said. "We are building on a strong defense from last year and looking for improvement in the offense, and the veteran players have worked well together in practices so far this pre-season. We are also impressed with our prospects in the new players."
Elkins will rely on seniors Cord Elmer, Mason Schoonover and Kollin Hopwood to power the offense, while fellow senior Dalton Bobes will anchor a young but experienced defense.
In addition to Bobes, Elkins will return four underclassmen who saw significant playing time last year. Those players include goalkeeper Tyler Gray and defenders Adam Haddix, Aaron Lee and Alex Edwards.
"We know our defense will keep the opponents working to get goals and our season will hinge on how the transition to offense gets us some good looks at the goal. We have a talented group of players and I am really eager to see what we can do," Montgomery said.
Elkins will begin the season at 1 p.m. today at Martinsburg. The Tigers remain on the road Saturday to face Musselman.
TENNERTON?- Class AAA powerhouse Buckhannon-Upshur will look to senior leadership to make a run toward a state championship. The Bucs hope to build on last season's success after winning the Region II, Section 2 title.
Coach Mike Donato said nearly all of last year's team has returned, losing only two starters. In addition, this year's squad has 30 players, which is almost double the number of boys on last year's team.
"Practice has been going very well," Donato said. "We started out by going back to the basics. We've also been trying a couple different formations to utilize the talent we have. We have a very good group of young men and they have some very lofty expectations. The kids have made it their goal to get to the state tournament and take it to the next level."
Donato said the team will look to seniors Chris Orwig, Marty Elliot and Dylan Hall for leadership. All three players earned all-state and all-Big 10 Conference honors last season.
Orwig, who has played goalie for the team since his freshman year, will be an integral part of the team's success, Donato said.
"He's clutch," Donato said. "He keeps us in games. He's a real motivator. He's always talking, always pointing things out."
The Bucs will look to Hall, along with junior Trey Short and sophomore Josh Tenney to control the pace of the game in the center of the field. According to Donato, the sweepers are one of the team's biggest assets.
"(Hall) is one of the best players I've seen," Donato said. "He has a real nose for the ball. He can play any position on the field. He controls the game and gets us on the attack. He's got speed and he's tenacious. He's definitely a nice weapon to have."
Offensively, B-U will look to Elliot to light up the score board.
"Marty has good control and understanding of the game," Donato said. "All the boys look to him for leadership. Our attack goes through him."
The Bucs will visit Brooke at 2 p.m. Saturday to open the season.
PHILIPPI - Philip Barbour lost to conference rival Bridgeport in the Class AA Region II, Section 2 title game last season, but coach Ron Jones has the Colts fired up and ready for a fresh start.
"I am amazed how hard this group works," Jones said. "The all come to practice every day and ready to play. They are very excited to get the season started."
The Colts have 24 players on the roster, including six seniors. Jones says the team's strength will be on defense. He said seniors Shay Mitchell and Ben Ball are key players.
"I like to think of them as two bodies and one mind," Jones said. "They always know what the other is doing. They are probably our biggest asset."
Another team strength is at the goalkeeper position. Senior Micah Shahan and sophomore Nick Triplett are competing for playing time in the net.
"Honestly, I don't know who is better," Jones said. "They are both very strong and very versatile. "They both can play midfield, too. I look for good things from them."
Offensively, Jones said the team will look to senior Sage Kline to score goals.
"He's aggressive," Jones said. "He wants to score. He will go after it. The only problem is, he's kind of a maverick."
Jones said this year's squad is talented, but no one individual outshines the others.
"We don't have just one star," Jones said. "All of our kids are talented in different ways. I try to look at where our strengths are and play accordingly."
Philip Barbour will travel to Frankfort at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
PETERSBURG?- First- year head coach John Webster hopes to turn around a Vikings team that finished last season with a 2-5 record. The team will open the season at 7 p.m. Monday against Berkeley Springs.
This year's squad has 12 players, including seniors Wes Sturgill, Garrett Willis, Grant Shanholtz and Clayton Ford. Webster said his seniors are "good leaders" and "work well together."
"Our biggest goal is to get better every day," Webster said. "The kids' spirits are very high. They are ready to get out there and play. I think they are tired of running laps and doing my drills. The seniors want a winning season and get the program back on the upswing. I think they can do it because they are willing to work hard."
Offensively, the Vikings will look to Shanholtz and Ford to put the ball in the net. Webster described his senior strikers as "quick, fast and strong."
"(Shanholtz) is going to find a way to get it into the net," Webster said. "I've also been very impressed with Ford. He gets a lot of shots on the goal."
Webster said Sturgill's experience will help the team control the game tempo from the middle of the field.
"Wes is a very defensive minded midfielder," Webster said. "He's played all four years. He's a leader in the middle of the field. He's a strong kid and goes after the ball.
One of the team's strengths is goalkeeping, Webster said.
"I don't think we will give up very many easy goals," Webster said. "I feel confident with Garrett in the net. He will definitely make teams work to score."