By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The accomplishments of the Princeton girls soccer team have been many this year — the first season in history with just one loss, first to win a Mountain State Athletic Conference championship, first to win nine games in conference play.
But now they’re trying to forget all that. With their regular season done, the Tigers (15-1) need to concentrate on the sectional tournament, beginning next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Princeton against a familiar opponent, Woodrow Wilson High School of Beckley.
Senior co-captain and four-year starter Jessica Inman said Tuesday, “I think winning the MSAC championship game, I think it really boosted our confidence. That’s great but we have to put that behind us.
“Now we have to think about the sectionals and how we have to get past the first game. If we think about what we did, we can’t go as far as we want to.”
Fellow senior Jordan Thompson said, “Everything we’ve accomplished so far, we need to put behind us and not think about how far we’ve made it, now. We just need to think about how much farther we can go.”
Princeton head coach Michelle Dye said that because of the conference title game, “The girls finally realize that they can compete with some of the top teams in the state.”
Inman said, “Honestly, I think we could hang with any of them.”
She used the Tigers’ MSAC championship win 2-0 over George Washington High as an example. “We kind of proved when we played GW,” she said. “GW has always been very, very good team. If we play at the top of our potential, we can play with any of the teams out there.”
Dye said, “With the type of schedule we played this year, we’ve played 10 conference games. It was against a lot tougher teams than we normally play, and they were able to compete at that higher level.”
“So I really think that has prepared us, hopefully, for the sectional games next week. Woodrow and Greenbrier East, it’s a tough game every time we play those two teams.”
Prior to the start of the season in August, Dye had said, “It is not a free ride to the state tournament at all.”
The team’s leading scorer, junior Shaylah Walls, said, “I really think that we’ve got this and can go farther than any Princeton team has gone.”
Among the Tigers’ 15 wins are seven shutouts. Only one team, Riverside on Sept. 4, has scored as many as three goals on Princeton.
The Tigers are coming off an 8-2 win against Shady Spring on Monday. If that score were not convincing enough, the team scored nine goals in each of two back-to-back road games at Oak Hill and at Ripley in August.
Princeton has averaged 4.3 goals a game and has given up only 14 goals in 16 contests. The team is ranked fifth in Class AAA in this week’s coaches association rankings.
Dye said, “I never expected to go (into the postseason) with just one loss. We play several tough teams in the Kanawha Valley and Huntington area. I didn’t expect us to go 10-0 in that conference.”
Their sole loss was by a 2-0 score at Greenbrier East on Aug. 30.
Dye said, “There’s a lot of things we could have done differently. Greenbrier East played a great game that day, and there were a lot of mistakes that we made. It was a learning experience for those girls. I think it made us stronger.”
The first order of business now is to prepare to play Woodrow Wilson. Dye said, “Their team is about like ours. There are a lot of similarities. It’ll be a close game I feel; it’s always a one- or two-point game. Woodrow’s our rival in our section.
“It’s going to be a good game. Both teams are really going to have to play hard. And the team that’s on top of its game is going to win. Hopefully, that’s us.”
Walls said about Princeton’s 2-1 win in Beckley on Aug. 23, “We’ve played them before, but it was just at the beginning of the season, and both teams have grown. I think we can take them on, and anything is possible.”
Thompson said, “Next week’s going to be a tough challenge, because Woodrow’s always got it out for us, and they bring a good game. So we’ve got a big game next week.”
“I think we’re capable of going all the way, but we just have to work hard, and keep our closeness ... and just work as a team.”
She is excited about playing the first playoff game at home. “We’ll have a lot more fans to support us, and it will pump us up a lot more and it can help us go farther because we have the support at home to start us off with the sectionals,” she said.
Inman expects the game with Woodrow Wilson to be “very intense. They’re always aggressive. Woodrow’s always a team we want to beat. ... We have to be ready and be on top of our game. We can’t let anything get in the way, we just have to play really well.”
Walls said, “We’re not going to get too far ahead. We’re just taking the games one by one. As long as we can get it together, we’re inseparable.”
“We can go all the way, but we don’t want to get our minds set too far (ahead).”
Editor’s Note: The second part of this two-day feature on the Princeton girls soccer team will run in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph.
— Contact Tom Bone at