By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
Will the third time in the state tournament be the charm for the PikeView girls soccer team? The experience of trips to that level in 2009 and 2010 can’t hurt, according to coach Sam Hill.
“I think that we’ve been around the state tournament enough to kind of have a feel for what we need to do, mentally,” he said before a recent practice.
“The two years the girls went up there prior to (2011), we had the opportunity to win both of those games. The first year against Weir, it was overtime. The second time against Grafton it was 2-1.
“I think what we’ve done in the past has worked well. We don’t change a lot from what we do during the regular season, just try to keep the same attitude, create the same atmosphere as we do there, and hopefully that’ll translate into the same type of success come game time.”
The first test of that attitude will come today at about 7 p.m. when PikeView (16-4-2) takes the field at Trace Fork Soccer Complex in Charleston to play Fairmont Senior (14-8-1) in the last semifinal match of the day.
The winner goes on to the championship match on Wednesday afternoon at the same venue.
Some of the new girls to the team had reservations in the preseason about PikeView’s chances in the wake of Hope Nester’s summertime knee injury that prevented her from playing soccer this fall. Nester scored 52 goals for the Panthers in 2011.
“I’ll be up front about it,” Hill said. “We were talking about some team goals. We had several girls who had not been part of the success we’ve had, freshmen and sophomores in particular, who knew Hope, and unfortunately felt like that injury was going to be devastating to us ... .
“I kept telling the girls, ‘We’re going to win games, don’t worry about that.’ We lost our first two, so I’m not sure how much they believed me.
“But finally, when we started winning games and playing pretty good soccer, I think the belief in themselves (became) ‘Hey, we can be pretty good.’ And it’s not one player that makes the team. In this case, I guess there are 15 of us, who are healthy, that make the team.
“If we all do what we can do individually, as a team, we can be successful.”
He added that “we seemed to get ourselves a little bit banged up at the beginning of the season. But we’ve been able to keep everybody reasonably healthy, and as the season has worn along, we’ve been in pretty good shape.”
The sorting-out process included “defining roles, understanding where the girls could play and contribute, and not asking more of them than they can give us,” Hill said.
It also included ditching the formation that Hill had decided to employ in the first game. “We have not gone back to that, one time,” he said.
The turning point of the season, he said, was a match on Aug. 21 at Class AAA Woodrow Wilson.
He said, “We were still pretty daggoned banged-up, but we went over there, and they beat us 3-2. But each time we got down a goal, we fought back and tied it. We were 2-2 with about 15 minutes to go. We did not deserve to win the game, so I don’t want to say that we did.
“But the fact that we were able to compete against a school of the quality of Woodrow, the team they had this year, I think that created the belief in ourselves that, ‘You know what, we may not play the same style of soccer we played in the past, but we can play a style of soccer in which we can be successful.’ And that’s how we’ve played, all year.”
The statistics bear out the success. PikeView has 114 goals this season, an average of 5.18 per game. More than half — 59 goals, to be precise — have been tallied by senior Laura Hill, the coach’s daughter. That total broke the unofficial state scoring record for a season.
The team’s only other senior, Charlotte Webster, added 14 goals and a team-high 24 assists. Freshmen Madison May and Sophie Klein have scored 10 and nine goals respectively. Hill has 16 assists and May has 14.
Kristen Brinkley has been the goalkeeper for every minute of the 22 matches, and has recorded 82 saves and a goal-against average of 1.45. The Panthers defense has eight shutouts to its credit.
Hill said last Thursday he didn’t know “a ton” about today’s opponent, the Polar Bears of Fairmont Senior, who had been a Class AAA school until this season. They still have several big-enrollment schools on their schedule, and Hill said, “They compete well at that level, so I think that speaks a lot about the quality of the team that they’ve got.
“They’ve got good club programs up there. They’re close enough to Morgantown to benefit from what they’ve got, plus they’ve got their own programs there. Those girls, and guys, have a chance to play year-round, and that certainly makes a big difference.”
Webster, PikeView’s senior midfielder, said, “We know that prior to this season they were a Triple-A team, so they’re used to playing a more difficult schedule with faster speed of play.
“So we definitely know, going into the game on Tuesday, that we’re going to have to play with some speed and play with some urgency. But I believe that we can do that, because we’ve done that all year.”
— E-mail: tbone@