In soccer, defense usually starts the attack.
At Midland Trail, the defenders often finish it.
The Patriots are off to a 2-0 start, having downed Lincoln County 8-0 Saturday and Scott 6--0 Tuesday.
Beyond the fact Trail’s defense held the Panthers and Skyhawks scoreless, senior sweeper Hannah Legg racked up two hat tricks and junior defender Summer Whipkey tallied five goals.
In other words, 11 of Trail’s 14 goals were by two players who start on defense, but often end up at forward or in the midfield.
Legg, a second-team all-state choice in 2011, was the Patriots’ leading scorer last season with 15 goals.
“Hannah can move up,” coach Scott Wilson said. “She can loft the ball over the defense and is very accurate.”
Legg is looking like an equally dangerous scorer.
“Summer is a defender, but she’s instant offense,” Wilson said.
Trail lost five seniors from last season’s 14-7-1 club, including standouts Morgan Hypes and Allison Syner, but have seemingly not skipped a beat in the first two games.
Experience is the key. Wilson played a lot of people last year.
“I kept telling the girls we had 17 starters,” he said. “When somebody was sick or injured, it wouldn’t affect us.”
While Legg and Whipkey have been superb so far, the offense is very capable. Right-side striker Mindy Sevy, a senior, is coming off a 14-goal season. Sophomore Heaven Simms saw action last year and has moved into a starting role.
The midfield features junior playmaker Marissa Workman, along with senior Molly Sevy, sophomore Emily Carte and junior Brianna Underwood.
“This group might be the best midfield I’ve had at crossing the ball,” Wilson said. “Marissa puts a lot of pressure on the opposing defense.”
Senior Ciera Brewer, a third-year starter, and junior Kristen Fitzwater join Legg and Whipkey in the back four.
Goalkeeper is “by committee” so far, with junior Savannah Skaggs moving over from the wing and freshmen Jill Gray, Ciera Reyna and Gracie Clendenin also getting playing time.
Wilson, now in his 11th season as the Trail head coach, thinks the team can have another big year.
“We can be as good as last year’s team, which had the second-best record we’ve had,” he said.”
The Midland Trail boys must replace six graduated seniors from a team which went 7-9-4 in its inaugural season in 2011.
“We’re young and need to develop depth,” said coach Dave Pollard. “We lost an all-state sweeper in Ryan Whitlock and an all-conference defender in Brandon Sims, so we need to shore up the defense.
“Our strength should be in the midfield.”
There are six returning starters, led by Jose Hunter, an all-conference defender, Tyler Skaggs, an all-conference striker, and Nikolas Brewer, a midfielder.
This year’s starting lineup will feature keeper Rickie Carter, defenders Jose Hunter, Daniel Hunter, Jonathan Stone and Austin Beaver; midfielders Brewer, Cody Hildebrand, B.J. Beaver and Brandon Belcher; and strikers Skaggs and Michael Benson.
When the postseason arrives, the Patriots will be in Class AA/A Region 3, Section 1 with Pocahontas County and Nicholas County. Section 2 will feature PikeView, Bluefield, Independence and Mingo Central.
“I’m pleased with the progress of the second program,” said Pollard. “Twenty-four players is a lot for a Class A school.
“We hope to continue building the program through work with the middle school and Coach Varner, as well as with the youth leagues.”
In the early going, Midland Trail lost to Bluefield and defeated Scott 7-2.
For a look at the Oak Hill programs, see a future issue of the Tribune.
— E-mail: email@example.com
(Steve Keenan contributed to this story.)
In soccer, defense usually starts the attack.
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