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Parkersburg South’s Karleigh Dowler battles a University player for possession of the ball during a 2019 regular season game. Dowler returns to the pitch as an integral offensive piece for the Patriots in 2020. File Photo

PARKERSBURG –Nothing about Parkersburg South girls soccer’s ongoing journey to advance to the Class AAA state tournament has been easy.

Sure, the regular season may already be tough by design but then the level of competition rises greatly in the postseason.

Case in point: Facing and losing to eventual state champions Hurricane and Cabell Midland the past four years in the regional final has left the Patriots on the outside looking in on a trip to Beckley.

Now there’s a new twist.

Their 2020 road to the YMCA’s Paul Cline Memorial Youth Soccer Complex got a little tougher after a big offseason decision by the WVSSAC. With the governing body moving Hurricane into the Patriots section it creates a new challenge. This occurrence leaves Coach Ron Bucholtz and company with one less game to prepare themselves for a meeting. Hurricane now lines up as a possible opponent in the sectional championship game.

For Bucholtz and crew, this comes with good and bad news. On one hand, if the Patriots advance past the Redskins there is “a solid chance” they are heading to the state tournament. Shelly Young’s crew advanced to the regional final out of section 2 the last two years. No team currently in the section is on the Redskins’ level.

On the other hand, even though state-record setting scorer Bailey Fisher no longer lines up as a striker, Young’s crew won’t be “an easy out.” Much of a Redskins’ defense responsible for blanking the Patriots 2-0 in last year’s regional co-final returns to the pitch.

Rival Parkersburg High also getting back striker Kendal Domenick adds another hill in need of climbing.

Fortunately for Bucholtz, much of his team also returns.

Only three seniors walked across the stage earlier this summer.

Leading the charge for the blue and white are three seniors well experienced on the field. Samantha Martin, Kendal Mader, and Ellie Foggin form the backbone of the Patriots. Junior Samara Nunn adds another level of starting depth as she has seen plenty of playing time the last three seasons. Nunn and Carly Dowler were the second and third highest scoring girls on the 2019 team.

When and if they, Ava Barton, Mackenzie Mott, Foggin or anyone else scores, the team can lean on a defense that vastly improved as the season progressed last season. No better evidence of the improved defense was on display then in the team’s scrimmage against Herbert Hoover just weeks ago. South’s defense dominating the first 15 minutes “demoralized” the Huskies into submission, according to Bucholtz.

Mader brought another dimension to the warm-up with a sparkling score sheet in goal. Zero balls came close to slipping past the four-year starter.

“She is seeing the ball well and has a great intensity and just has a great ability to make saves and make lateral saves,” Bucholtz said. Now it is all about getting ready for the season opener at home against John Marshall, then getting up again the next day for an afternoon contest with Oak Glen.

“We are in pretty good shape coming out of our scrimmage,” said Bucholtz who watched his crew grab a convincing win over a physical Herbert Hoover squad in the warm-up session. “We can try a few different things early and have good versatility. Depending on who we play we may have a different lineup with different people in it. We have a group comfortable in a few different formations and who we may play may dictate who we put on the field. Girls can go inside, up to, and around back. We have reasonable depth and support.

“The girls are doing more of the right things early on and we are fairly confident that this is going to be a promising year. We have the team to compete.”

WELL RESTED GOALIES

While Mader figures to be the feature goalie, the Patriots have an option to keep her fresh after off-season shoulder surgery. Her understudy Mackenzie Mott continues developing at a quick rate and Bucholtz isn’t hesitant to swap her in to give Mader rest. “Mac is showing she is pretty comfortable and is just a gifted athlete,” Bucholtz said.

THREE BIG, BIG, BIG GAMES

South plays it regular slate of big games against Morgantown, Oak Glen, Wheeling Park and Charleston Catholic, but three contests stand out as even bigger than those matchups. Whenever the Patriots face Hurricane, PHS, or Ripley, sectional positioning will be on the line for not just the championship game but the second round as well. This is a first in the section in quite sometime. As Region IV, Section 1 only had three teams in the past, one team could sit and watch the two teams play and then host the winner.

“Really for us we are playing three games in a season to gather a huge advantage for when the postseason comes around,” Bucholtz said.

Head coach: Ron Bucholtz, 9th year

Assistant coach: Scott Limer

ROSTER

Seniors

Kendall Mader (GK/F), Samantha Miller (D/MF), Ellie Foggin (MF), Ciarra Binkley (D)

Juniors

Karleigh Dowler (F/MF), Sophie McClure (D), Samara Nunn (F/MF), Hannah Habeb (MF)

Sophomores

Kyra Sandy (MF), Alayna Goff (MF), Cameron Limer (D), Mia Miller (D), Ava Burton (F/MF), Mackenzie Mott (F/GK), Erin Riesbeck (D)

Freshmen

Brianna Benear (MF), Jenna Limer (MF), Hadley Freshour (MF), Riley Shockey (MF)

SCHEDULE

Sept. 2: John Marshall (Senior Night), 6 p.m.

Sept. 3: Oak Glen, 1 p.m.

Sept. 7: vs. Dover (at Riverview), 3 p.m.

Sept. 8: at Wheeling Central, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 10: Wheeling Park, 6 p.m.

Sept. 12: Woodrow Wilson, 1 p.m.

Sept. 15: Ripley, 6 p.m.

Sept. 17: at Morgantown, 6 p.m.

Sept. 19: at Hurricane, 11 a.m.

Sept. 21-26: OVAC Tournament, TBA

Sept. 29: at University, 6 p.m.

Oct. 1: PHS, 8 p.m.

Oct. 3: at Buckhannon-Upshur, Noon

Oct. 6: at Cabell Midland, 6 p.m.

Oct. 8: Oak Hill, 6 p.m.

Oct. 10: Greenbrier East, 1 p.m.

Oct. 13: at George Washington, 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 17: Charleston Catholic, Noon


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