OAK HILL — The Oak Hill High soccer teams will christen 2014 with a home doubleheader against PikeView on Tuesday, Aug. 26. The girls play at 5 p.m. and the boys at 7 p.m.
The Red Devil squads enter the current campaign on the heels of polar opposite 2013 results. The senior-strong OHHS boys sailed through an unbeaten regular season (16-0-2) and wound up losing 2-0 to rival Woodrow Wilson in the section tournament final to finish 17-1-2. Meanwhile, the Oak Hill girls struggled home with a 3-15-3 record.
Cliff Sullivan takes over as head coach of the Red Devil boys for Kyle Kent, who resigned in June.
Along with Kent went a slew of talented seniors, including prolific scorer Jacob Kemlock and goalkeeper Brett Garris.
A Huntington native, Sullivan says returning seniors Ian Hunt and Jon Hardman will be counted on to be team leaders and to carry a lot of the offensive load in 2014. Hunt, a striker, and Hardman, an offensive center-midfielder, should “produce most of our goals,” the coach said. Hunt notched five scores in a 6-0 preseason win.
Overall, Sullivan said, Oak Hill will field “a pretty young team” with 32 players on the roster. Others expected to contribute include senior center-wing Cody Walker, defender Preston Canterbury, sophomore Nick Forren and junior Seth Blake.
Sullivan, Kent’s assistant last season, welcomes the challenge ahead of him. “It has always been a dream of mine to (head) coach. Coach Kent showed me some of the ropes, but I have a totally different approach.”
His goal is to “build a program and make it successful,” he stressed. “Coming in with a fresh start is kind of nice,” Sullivan added. “Chemistry can be built from the bottom up.
“I’m pretty confident in this team.”
Second-year Oak Hill girls coach Dave Pollard, too, has a good feeling about his team. Twenty-five players are out, and many of them played a year ago. Only three seniors were lost, and a couple of other players didn’t come back out from 2013.
“I like what I have,” Pollard said. “I see some improvement, but we’re still not deep enough.
“It’s still a difficult transition to triple-A.”
That doesn’t mean the Red Devils will shy away from facing Class AAA schools. Added for this season were games with big school foes St. Albans, Cabell Midland and Lincoln County, in addition to retaining eight other triple-A games against schools who were on the slate a year ago.
Last season was difficult at times, Pollard admitted. “We started really strong (2-0-1 in the first three games), went in the hole and got frustrated, then finished strong. We played a great game in the sectionals against Shady Spring.”
Senior goalkeeper Brianna O’Valle, a West Virginia Sports Writers Association all-state pick a year ago, will be back to help lead the Red Devils. She’s one of the team captains along with fellow seniors Mary Kate Rosiek (midfielder), Chloe Gillespie (defender) and Lindsey Jordan (defender/keeper) and junior Rachel White (midfielder).
Another top returnee is Miranda Jones, a sophomore defender who was a W.Va. Soccer Coaches Association all-state choice.
“We have a number of other experienced players,” said Pollard. “And I’m really excited about a couple of freshmen (forward Jackie Rosiek and defender Sarah Keffer).”
Pollard expects the back line to be one of the strongest aspects of his team’s play. “Even though they’re young (three sophomores and a freshman), we have a very strong back line,” he said. Jones and Keffer will be joined by sophomores Lilly Hines and Julia Ivey.