Local high school soccer teams roll into 2018 season
HUNTINGTON — Players who participate on summer soccer teams have a quick turnaround between that and the kickoff of the high school season, which opens this week.
West Virginia teams have seen much success on the pitch including the Cabell Midland High School girls team that will defend the Class AAA state championship and is hoping to make a return trip to Beckley for a run at another crown.
Here is a preview of some West Virginia teams.
Cabell Midland girls
The defending Class AAA state champions have a different look after the Knights lost some key players to graduation, injuries and attrition. The 2018 Cabell Midland team will feature freshmen in its starting lineup as well as some experienced sophomores and juniors to fill the holes.
“Right down the middle we’re pretty strong,” head coach Andy Wilson said. “And we’ve got Emilie Charles.”
Charles captured state Player of the Year and Class AAA Forward of the Year honors in helping to lead Cabell Midland to an 18-5-1 regular-season record.
Wilson said Abby Long is “the best defender in the state,” but he’ll be without her services because of an offseason ACL injury.
Goalie Rayen Ciccolella returns along with Gabby Hammers, an all-state defender.
Cabell Midland boys
Cabell Midland will mix a fistful of freshmen with 14 returning players from the 2017 squad that finished 9-6-2 and advanced to the finals of Class AAA, Region IV, Section 2.
“Our focus during the preseason is getting the team to play as a cohesive unit both offensively and defensively,” head coach Brian McNeel said. “We have some freshmen that will be fun to watch.”
The freshman class of Jaden Fleshman, Wisam Helwani, Gavin Hesson, Ryan
Holmes, Alexander Opimo and Ryan Stackpole is a group McNeel said has extensive experience with club teams.
“This is one of the most skilled teams we’ve had at Cabell Midland with their ability to pull the ball out of the air,” McNeel said. “There’s four or five (of the freshmen) who have played on travel teams.”
The Knights’ youth comes from the loss of 11 seniors from last season.
Seniors Ethan Ball, Cole Burd, Ethan Hess, Gabe Hes-son, Chandler Morton and Bren-nan Shope will be filling those shoes.
Huntington High boys
Huntington High coach Blaine Stoll said he is hoping a year of maturity for his junior class, and the turnout of 38 players will greatly improve the fortunes of the Highlanders.
“The strong freshman class we had a couple of years ago are juniors now, and the size, speed, strength from sophomore year to junior year is a big difference,” Stoll said. “I think we should be much better.”
Stoll said he’s looking for strong seasons from juniors Foster Jones, Perrin Schray, Owen Stoll and Skyler Cyrus among others.
Also returning for Stoll and the Highlanders will be one of last season’s co-captains, senior Bryson Parker.
The large turnout of players gives the Highlanders depth, and the team stayed injury-free during the games the boys played for their summer club teams.
Stoll said he also expects the rest of the Class AAA, Region IV, Section 2 teams to be strong.
Huntington High girls
Huntington High jumps into the heat of its season beginning Tuesday with a road game against fellow Class AAA, Region IV, Section 2 foe Hurricane. The Highlanders, coached by Susan McHale, will have three of their first four contests away from Scotland Yard.
Following those games, Huntington High will be home for all but two opponents in September.
HHS returns considerable talent, despite losing nine seniors. Jordan Maynard is one of the premier goalkeepers in the region. Sophomore Sophia Aya-Ay is a force on offense and defense. Sophomore Jalen Nicely is a dangerous scorer. Juniors Faith Worrell and Anna Spears are solid returnees.
The Highlanders will miss Tesia Schray, who graduated and is continuing her career at Marshall University. Schray was a two-time first-team All-Mountain State Athletic Conference performer. Also gone is standout Camryn Michallas, who now plays softball at the University of Akron.
McHale said others will have to fill the leadership void left by Schray.
“Tescia was a good leader and the other girls followed her,” McHale said.
Huntington St. Joe boys
Head coach Chuck Karnes and the Huntington St. Joe Fighting Irish enter the season needing to fill big shoes with the graduation of Nate Hugh.
Karnes said he retains good junior and senior classes and picked up few sophomores and juniors.
“We lost quite a bit of offensive punch from last season,” said Karnes. ”(Hugh) had 45 goals scored, so that’s hard to replace.”
Early on, the Fighting Irish will rely on a strong defense while the offensive flow develops, Karnes said.
Karnes said a pair of center-backs, junior Austin Wiles and senior Max Adkins, will shore up the defense. Goalkeeper Deuce Vance is a junior.
St. Joe will have experience on the field with returning starters junior center midfielder Stewart Perry, junior forward Zeb Pinson and senior outside backer Joe Faucette.
Huntington St. Joe girls
The Fighting Irish return the Class AA/A state Forward of the Year and Gonzaga University commitment McKenzie Moran as a senior along with talented underclassmen for a squad that finished the 2017 season 15-5-1.
In addition to Moran, Arianna Patrick, Savannah Short, Grade Brumfield and newcomer Caleigh Morris round out the senior class for head coach Nick Turner. Moran and Short are the only returning starters out of the senior class.
Abi Hugh, Abby Lee, Bella Hale, Mina Smith are returning starters out of the six juniors on the roster. Lee played in goal for St. Joe a year ago, but is now a midfielder. Junior Samantha Richbart will be the goalkeeper.
Sophomore Laney Whitmore will hang up the basketball sneakers for now and return to the midfielder position where she shined as a freshman starter.
“We have a team that’s mostly upperclassmen and we’re not just an old team, but we’re a team that’s old together because we’ve played a lot of games together and grown up with each other,” assistant coach Ben Eng said. “The team we have this year is a true St. Joe team. We’re small but mighty.”
Spring Valley boys
The Timberwolves return an experienced corps of seniors for new head coach Ron Bowen, an assistant coach for the last three seasons.
Bowen has coached soccer for 23 seasons, all in Wayne County, in recreation leagues and travel teams. The new coach is will be trying to reverse the fortunes for a Timberwolves team that finished 2-9-4 in 2017.
“I’m optimistic about this season,” he said. “We only lost two seniors from last year’s team. We have 11 seniors this year — eight are returning starters. We have four juniors and six sophomores.”
Among the seniors this year will be the team’s four captains and returning starters Andrew Ball Chase Stevens, Blaze Well-man and Nick Bowen. Another returning starter who Bowen said would be key is Jamie McSweeney.
“Defense will be our strength,” Bowen said.
Spring Valley girls
Todd Smith will once again roam the sideline as Spring Valley’s head coach. Smith previously served as head coach of the Timberwolves until a work conflict forced him into an assistant coaching role last year under Kenny Burner.
Smith brings familiarity with the girls to the head coaching job there and is relying on a core of juniors with his three returning starters to stay competitive in the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
Goalkeeper Kim Holland, forward Halley McGown and midfielder Dez Mays provide senior leadership.
“Having a core that works well together will be the strength of this team,” Smith said. “Quite a few of them did travel ball and participated in the offseason conditioning we had.”