Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Something Special

All season, two teams have been on a collision course. Assuming they take care of business this week, Saturday morning's match in Morgantown will be the most anticipated (and may be the most watched, inside the state and out) girls' high school soccer game of this and perhaps any season in West Virginia.

University High School is the defending Class AAA Champion in the State. The Hawks return most of their starters from a team that went through the 2009 season without a loss. Their coach is undoubtedly the most accomplished high school soccer coach currently leading a team in West Virginia, having won two boys' state championships at Morgantown High before moving across both town and the gender line to coach at University. The school has 1250 students and the city has a strong youth and travel soccer pool from which to draw players.

Charleston Catholic High School is the defending Class AA-A Champion. The Irish return nine starters from a team that lost one game in 2009 and won its second straight state championship. Their coach is a part-timer who never played the game and started coaching at the high school level largely by chance. The school has 250 students and benefits from having seven seniors who comprise the best single class of soccer players in the history of the institution.

Both teams are undefeated so far this season, with the only blemish on either side being Catholic's tie against the Morgantown girls' team. They are ranked first and second in the state according to the state's mathematical rankings, The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (a name which calls to mind the American Dodgeball Association of America) poll, and ESPN's RISE poll.

Obviously, the ultimate goal in this or any season is to win a state championship. But this game is a little different -- in some ways it's for the championship of the whole state, not just a class. And it's an opportunity for at least one school to gain recognition outside of the state, something that's hard to come by, for girls' high school soccer particularly.

This is what you play for.

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