By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Sam Hill wanted a competitive girls soccer team at PikeView.
Little did he know he would win 91 games in six seasons, and take the Lady Panthers to three state tournaments in the past four years.
“We knew we would have kids who play well enough to be successful,” Hill said. “But our first year, the state tournament was just one class, and with teams like Princeton, Woodrow Wilson and Greenbrier East around, we didn’t expect to have a ton of postseason success.”
Fortunately, the tournament format went to two classes, and PikeView has become one of the predominant AA-A girls programs in southern West Virginia.
For his efforts, Hill is the 2012 West Virginia girls soccer high school coach of the year, named by both by the state soccer coaches association, and by the National Federation of High Schools.
“You don’t win those awards without quality teams and quality help,” he said.
He’s coached many all-state players, such as goalkeeper Tara Hazelwood, midfielders Mariah Farley and Samantha Wood and his daughter, Laura, who is the coaches association’s 2012 AA-A state forward of the year.
The PikeView boys team, which Hill has also coached for six years, has one state tournament appearance to its credit. He’s guided the careers of standout attackers Will Webster and Casey Weatherly, and superb defender Josh Hill (his son).
Surprisingly, the 1986 Athens High School graduate never played soccer.
“All I knew was a soccer ball was round and might serve as a basketball if you didn’t have one handy,” he said.
A graduate of both Concord and West Virginia universities, Hill has an MBA and is a senior trust officer at a Bluefield bank.
His assistant coach is his wife Angie, a one-time basketball and track standout at Athens.
“Angie has been the backbone of the team. She’s relentless in getting stuff done,” Hill said. “She works well with the administration, and makes sure all the paperwork is taken care of.
“She also works hard to get the kids recognition, such as putting up signs in school and getting a pep rally before the state tournaments.
“I get the easy part. I coach and get the pats on the back.”
Hill owns a 91-28-12 record on the girls side and is 64-49-9 with the boys.
The girls went to states in 2009, 2010 and 2012; the boys went in 2011.
The Lady Panthers were a surprising 16-5-2 this season after losing three players early to injuries, including all-stater Hope Nester.
They beat a very good Pocahontas County team 3-2 to advance to states, where they fell 2-1 to Fairmont Senior in the semifinals.
Laura Hill scored two goals in the win over Pocahontas County. She finished the season with 59 goals, and had 115 for her career.
“Last year Laura played with a club team out of Clarksburg. That’s six hours of driving, but she doesn’t complain,” Hill said. “Years ago she made a commitment to be the best player she can be and to play collegiately one day.”
She recently signed a letter-of-intent to play soccer at WVIAC state champion West Virginia Wesleyan.
“Laura has good technical ability and is a strong athlete,” Hill said. “She’s not the fastest player, but she has good speed. She anticipates the play and gets into the right position at the right time.”
Hill wants to follow his daughter’s games at Wesleyan, which will probably bring some changes.
“Laura’s games will be a priority. I might just coach the girls next year. That will take some of the burden off,” he said.
“I haven’t decided anything for sure, but I hope to be involved in some capacity with the program. I really do enjoy coaching.”
No matter who is in charge next season, the cupboard won’t be empty at PikeView.
“There’s a good group of girls at the eighth grade level, and there’s a local club, all of whom are good players,” Hill said. “In terms of depth, it will be a better team than this year. Hope Nester is speculating she might come back.
“The guys’ team will be very competitive on the state level.”
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