By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
They’ve been there before. This time they think the result will be different.
The girls soccer team at Princeton Senior High School appeared on Tuesday afternoon to be ready mentally, physically and emotionally for one of their bigger challenges — today’s regional championship match with George Washington High School.
The winner competes in the state tournament on Nov. 2-3. It’s the second straight year the Tigers have reached the Class AAA, Region III finals. They lost 3-1 to Nitro last year.
Princeton head coach Michelle Dye said, “I think it’s going to be a close game, it’s going to be a very physical game. It’s just going to be which team can go 80 minutes at the end of the night.”
“We’re pretty evenly matched,” she said. “If you look at our past scores, a lot of our scores are the same (compared to common opponents). We’re right there together with the scores.”
One important score to the Tigers (17-1) is a 2-0 win against George Washington in the Mountain State Athletic Conference match on Oct. 6.
Dye said, “You read all the newspaper articles in Charleston and all that, and ‘the only reason we beat George Washington was because they had so many players injured,’ and what-not.”
“We’ve kind of been the underdog a lot this season, so we’ve been trying to focus on that, letting the girls realize they CAN do this stuff.”
“I’m just so proud of these girls,” she said. “They don’t realize what they’ve accomplished, I don’t think. Being the first team at Princeton High School to only lose one game in the regular season; finish fourth in the state in the regular season; the MSAC championship game.”
“I think the girls are just on a high right now, and I’m hoping it will continue.”
Princeton goalkeeper Meredith Putorek said, “We’re really excited for this game to come up. We just want to go out there and do our best, and prove that we deserve to be there.”
“I think, the last couple of years, we’ve really worked hard to get here, not just during the season but in the off-season. We’ve all put in a lot of hard work this past year to get back to the regionals.”
George Washington comes into the game with a 16-4-1 record. In their sectional tournament, the Patriots beat Ripley 6-0 and Capital 2-0.
Putorek said about the Patriots, “They work the ball really well, and they’ve got great connecting sequences. They move the ball really well. We just have to stay on them and make sure that we are marking our (players), and not letting them get a shot off.”
She said the Tigers defense is up to the challenge. “They always are there to save the day, when everything goes wrong, no matter what,” she said.
The Princeton team is also expected to get a boost from learning that it is ranked 14th in Region IV of the national poll of the National Soccer Coaches Association, another first for Princeton girls soccer.
“It’s the first time in Princeton’s history that the girls have ever been ranked nationally like that,” Dye said.
Today’s match is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on the synthetic playing surface at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium, located at Coonskin Park in Charleston. Dye said it has “probably been two years since we’ve been there. Our seniors and juniors have played there.”
“The ball moves a little bit faster on the turf versus the grass,” she said. “They need to start playing the ball to each other’s feet instead of playing it so far ahead of them.”
The Tigers have been practicing for a couple of weeks on the artificial turf at the football field, Hunnicutt Stadium, as well as at their soccer stadium, to be ready.
Dye said, “They’ve done really well. With the exception of the first time we played Greenbrier East, every time they’ve played on (artificial) turf, they’ve adjusted just fine with it.”
The season’s first match with Greenbrier East was their only loss. They avenged that last Thursday night with a 2-0 win over the Spartans, after long delays due to lightning, to claim the sectional crown and advance to today’s match.
Dye said last year’s team had not dealt with nearly as many pressures of a big match as this year’s squad.
“The pressure is so much different than the regular season in these games. The girls, that was the first time they had ever been around that. I think, us playing in that MSAC championship game, the girls got a taste of that pressure.”
“Our sectional (semifinal match with Woodrow Wilson) was not easy at all this year; it was very competitive. The same thing with Greenbrier East. I’m hoping those three games have prepared them mentally for this, so they’ll know what to expect.”
She said the team had the weekend off after Thursday’s win.
“They were pretty beat-up after that,” she said. “It was a very physical game. We had two girls come off with bloody noses. They were pretty banged up.”
She said Monday was “a pretty high-intensity practice,” and that Tuesday would primarily be devoted to walk-throughs and shooting drills.
“I think they’re just so fired up and excited,” she said.
The Tigers have scored 72 goals this season and allowed only 14. Shaylah Walls has netted 22 goals and provided nine assists, while Amanda Barrett has 21 goals and 13 assists.
Putorek has only given up eight goals all season. She was not scored upon as a goalkeeper in 11 games. The team recorded nine shutouts.
In the final West Virginia Soccer Coaches Association poll, the Tigers were fourth in Class AAA and fifth among all girls prep soccer teams in the state.
Putorek said, “I think I’ve had a pretty good year. I just want to keep continuing to get better, and help my team out.”
— Contact Tom Bone at