AP NEWS

Winfield boys win AA-A state title

November 5, 2018

BECKLEY — After years of close calls, near misses and tough losses, the Winfield High School boys soccer program finally had its day.

And now it has its own state championship to go with it.

A pair of goals from senior midfielder Evan McCray, a third from Braxton Vanscoy and some crisp, efficient second-half passing led the Generals (24-0-1) to the program’s first state championship, defeating East Fairmont 3-1 in the boys Class AA-A title tilt at Paul Cline Memorial Sports Complex on Saturday.

It could’ve easily been three straight titles for the Generals after losing just three games across the past three seasons. But bitter losses over the last two seasons — a sectional upset loss to Huntington St. Joe in 2016 and an overtime loss to eventual-champion Nitro in a regional match a year ago — kept Winfield out of the tournament field.

But those losses melted away during the hectic scrum that followed the final horn on Saturday and players and coaches alike agreed that the bitter end of the past two years made Saturday even sweeter.

“That loss to St. Joe, it was hard to sleep for weeks after that loss,” Winfield coach Mike Foster said. “An undefeated season, lost to a team we’d beat 4-1 in the regular season and then losing to Nitro last year in overtime – I thought we’d played a better game and that was hard to swallow too.”

“The year we lost to St. Joe, that’s stuck in my mind for two years,” McCray said. “I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. Then the game last year was heartbreaking, but to see them win a state championship really made me want to win a state championship. It made us work a lot harder this year and we got it done.”

McCray put Winfield up early with a penalty kick after the Bees (18-1-2) were called for a handball in the box. East Fairmont answered with 17:54 left in the half on a goal from Corey Fluharty before Vanscoy came through with a tally with 4:36 remaining to give the Generals a 2-1 halftime advantage.

East Fairmont could not find much of anything against the Generals down the stretch when it needed it and coach Tristan Wierbonski praised the Generals’ execution in the second half.

“We knew coming in that they were going to have a nice midfield,” Wierbonski said. “They’re well organized, they really work well team chemistry-wise, so they knew where exactly they were going to go. They forced us into tough situations and luckily we were able to counter at times, but their movement off the ball — we knew going in they were going to do it but that’s what hurt us the most. We weren’t able to pick up that last person on the pressure and they were able to find that last person.”

East Fairmont goalie Joel Morris made several nice stops down the stretch, keeping the Bees in the game until McCray’s final tally finished the deed off.

GIRLS

ROBERT C. BYRD 3, CHARLESTON CATHOLIC 1: All season long, and especially in the postseason, Robert C. Byrd (17-4-3) forward Ashton McKane proved to be too much for opposing defenses to handle.

And one more time on the state’s biggest stage, the Flying Eagles’ explosive senior striker proved to be the difference.

McKane scored a first-half goal and then delivered a dagger on a penalty kick with 11:42 remaining to punctuate a 3-1 win over Charleston Catholic in the Class AA-A girls soccer state championship game.

Her two tallies gave McKane 13 goals for the postseason and 51 for the season, and her performance over two days delivered Byrd its second straight crown and second title-game win over Catholic in as many seasons.

The Irish (15-3-3) were able to answer Byrd’s first score with a goal from Lindsay Carr in the first half and the teams entered the break tied 1-1.