Young Knights challenged to repeat as state soccer champs
ONA - The most difficult task for a champion is to repeat.
Cabell Midland High School’s girls soccer team, the defending Class AAA state champion, is finding that out as it preps for the 2018 season. The Knights lost considerable talent to graduation, with five senior starters moving on. Cabell Midland graduated Sophia Anton, Ripley Haney, Aubrey Howard-Brown, Kaylee Johnson, Ashton Lowe, Madison Risinger and Logan Ward from a team that went 18-5-1.
This summer, junior defender Abby Long tore a knee ligament and will miss the season.
“We’re kind of behind the eight ball right now,” Cabell Midland coach Andy Wilson said. “We’re pretty much starting from scratch. We’ll be better at the end of the year than we are at the beginning.”
Opponents won’t feel sorry for the Knights, particularly since they return state player of the year Emilie Charles, a junior who scored a state record 49 goals and handed out 16 assists last year.
“Emilie is doing well,” Wilson said. “She’s obviously a great player. Defensively is where we lost a lot. Defensively, we’re just not there.”
Rayen Ciccolella, a senior, returns for her third season in goal. Wilson said the veteran keeper might be forced to play a bit differently without a bevy of senior defensive standouts in front of her.
“She might have to come out of goal a little bit more,” Wilson said. “Rayen’s good there and she will take more of an active role.”
This could be a season of adjustment for the Knights. While not conceding anything, Wilson said his team will be challenged mightily, particularly by Ripley and Hurricane.
“They’ll both be really good,” Wilson said. “I think they’ll be the one who are targets, not us.”
Still, Wilson said he’s looking forward to the season.
“We’ve had some juniors who have stepped up,” Wilson said. “We’ll play and see what’s what and who works. We’ll still have a good team. Losing five starters isn’t the end of the world. We’ll still show up and play.”
Cabell Midland’s strength appears to be in the center. How well the outside play develops will be critical to the Knights’ success.
“We’re strong right down the middle,” Wilson said. “If we get up to speed on the outside, we can be a lot better. We’ll look at everything we can. We have good kids who work hard and really enjoy themselves.”
Cabell Midland opens its season at home against Wheeling Park on Aug. 17, then entertains Washington on Aug. 18.
“We’ll see where we stand early,” Wilson said.