The high school soccer season will officially begin today. The following is previews of area squads.
ELKINS - Last season ended with 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
The Buckhannon-Upshur and Elkins High School soccer teams will begin the regular season today with home matches. The Tigers will entertain Martinsburg, while the Bucs will host Musselman.
After losing seven starters to graduation, coach Andy Montgomery said this year's squad will have to rely on an experienced group of defenders to win games.
The team has 20 players on the roster, including eight lettermen.
"We've got a strong core of defenders," Montgomery said. "First and foremost, we are going to stop people from scoring and take our chances on the other end. Most of our seniors last year played offense, so we have a lot of experience in the back. We're going to have to work as a team to score goals."
Senior goalkeeper Tyler Gray will play an integral part in the team's game plan, Montgomery said. Helping him on defense will be seniors Adam Haddix and Aaron Lee and junior Alex Edwards.
"(Gray) has been our goalkeeper for the past two seasons," Montgomery said. "He's got a good bit of experience. He's gotten better with shot handling each year. He's a great communicator. He sees a lot of what's going on and tells his teammates."
The team will look to seniors Cameron Wilson, Chris Bodkin and Thabo Madzimure to find the net.
"Wilson and Bodkin are our leading returning scorers from last season," Montgomery said. "We need them to step up and led us in that category.
"(Thabo) will also play a striker role. We've been trying to find a guy who really wants to score and so far, he's shown a lot of determination."
The Tigers will open the season at home at 7 p.m. today against Martinsburg.
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 17-3 mark and sectional title.
Although the team lost a lot of seniors to graduation, coach Mike Donato believes this year's team will find success. The team has 27 players on the roster, including six seniors.
Senior midfielder Trey Short will play an instrumental part in 2014, Donato said. Last season, he earned All-State honorable mention honors and was on the second team of the Big 10 Conference squad.
"(Trey) has a great understanding of the game," Donato said. "He's got a great soccer IQ. He plays a crucial position. On the attack, we need him to find space and distribute the ball. He knows when to be aggressive. He's also one of the better defenders on the team. He keeps the pressure off the goal."
Junior midfielder Josh Tenney will also play an expanded role. Last season, he earned second team Big 10 All-Conference honors.
"We lost a big class," Donato said. "We lost two of the top scorers in the state. We can't replace them, we can only hope someone can fill in and achieve. I think we got some guys who can do that."
After four years between the sticks, goalkeeper Chris Orwig has graduated. Now, junior Cam Blake is ready to step in and try his hand at stopping goals.
"He's waited three years to step in," Donato said. "He was patient. Now it's his turn to lead from the back. He commands respect from his teammates and his play has backed it up."
Anchoring the defense will be senior Lucas Gallo and junior Matt McCoy.
"They've been working together with Cam, trying to build chemistry," Donato said. "They will be responsible for holding the middle together. We don't want to just win, we want to shut people out."
The Bucs will host Musselman at 7 p.m. today.
PHILIPPI - The Philip Barbour Colts didn't have an impressive record last season, but coach Ron Jones believes this year's squad is ready to bounce back.
"We're much stronger than last year," Jones said. "The guys seem to be working together as a team. Practice has been going very well. We also did pretty good in our scrimmages."
The Colts will rely on senior defender John Terwilliger to keep the ball out of the red zone. He is a four-year starter.
"John is a very good defender," Jones said. "He's resilient and uses his head. He's very intelligent and knows the game. He anticipates the action and gets to the ball."
Offensively, PB will look for junior Nick Triplett to light up the scoreboard. He earned All-Big 10 honors last season.
"He can play anywhere on the field," Jones said. "He's fast and very aggressive. He's a good leader. He expects the team to do well. During the offseason he called the guys up and had them join him to kick the ball around. He's a take charge kind of kid."
Other seniors on the team include forwards Cody Everson and Marcus Long and defenders Gunnar Poling and Dylan Westfall.
The Colts will open their season at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pocahontas County.