The Greenbrier East boys soccer team made history last week with a its win over George Washington in the Class AAA Region 3 championship match.
If you think the Spartans are just happy to make history by playing in the state tournament, you need to think again.
“As soon as we won the section, we wanted to focus on the next assignment and we did that. In the locker room after the GW game, the boys had their time and I had some time to speak to them as well. I wanted them to enjoy that moment until we found out our next opponent. I had no clue that I would find out who that was so quickly. I hadn’t got home from the game and I had found out who we were playing. I couldn’t even really enjoy (the GW win) because I was up until midnight texting coaches to get film on Wheeling Park. We are talking this thing as next assignment and we still have work top do.”
The Spartans and the Patriots will open the AAA portion of the state soccer tournament Friday morning at 10 a.m. at Paul Cline Stadium in Beckley
Prior to the regional triumph over GW, the postseason had not been kind to Greenbrier East.
A sectional championship title in 2019 ended with a regional loss to the Patriots who were in the midst of an 11-year run as Region 3 champions.
The next two years, the Spartans did not get a chance to avenge that loss because they were knocked out in sectional play by longtime rival Woodrow Wilson in shootouts.
Greenbrier East pressed on, but head coach Lucas Lemine did emphasize a couple of elements that, looking back, paid big dividends for his team this year.
The first thing Lemine wanted this team to do was have fun and enjoy the ride.
“We just want to have fun and be sure that we are cherishing the moment with the people that we are around.” Lemine said early in the season. “We also want to take advantage of the group that we have. This senior class is excellent.”
The senior class is made up of all-state captain Adam Seams, Chase Mizia, Luke Dolin, Nick White, Jason Ream, Ryan Wagner, Cayden Midkiff and Andrew “Bobby” Beverage.
The second element of emphasis was placed on conditioning which clearly was a huge factor for East in the wild win over George Washington which went 100 minutes before the shootout started.
“The last couple of seasons we have had a technical approach to our practices and cut the majority of our fitness. This year has been completely different,” Lemine said. “We have put a distinct focus on our level of fitness.”
Lemine also made a tactical change by moving Seams from the midfield to the back line.
(Adam) had a chance to play some travel soccer this summer with Tom Coxen Killoran, assistant coach at WVU Tech,” Lemine said. “That is where he was placed. It is a culmination of his abilities and his leadership roles. That is the best place for him to lead the team.”
“It’s not his best position and I will be the first to say it,” Lemine went on to say. “His best position is in the midfield. In the back is where he suited this team the best and Adam has really bought into that. He understood that is where he needed to play and be successful for this team to be successful.”
Along with giving him more control of the game, Seams has still been a scoring threat knocking in 12 goals on the season.
“It is not something that you don’t see very often, but we have given Adam a free license. If he wants to go, Adam can go. As long has we have Chase Mizia or Drew Beverage to fill in for him on that back line, he is free to go,” Lemine said. “He knows what he is doing and if he has coverage, we let him do what he wants because he is a great facilitator from the middle of the field.”
Seams was able to make the move to the back line in large part to the dual scoring threat the Spartans have up top with Mizia and Luke Dolin. Mizia has 15 goals on the season, while Dolin has netted 13 tries.
“Both of them have been unbelievable. We have focused more this year on all of the components of shooting technique this year,” Lemine explained. “Chase has picked that up really well. Luke has always been a highly technical player and his body is finally catching up to him. He has been electric his entire senior year. If you get tight to him, he will blow by you.”
Shutouts do not happen by accident and Greenbrier East has a rock solid keeper in junior Joe Cochran who has 101 saves on the season.
A save by Cochran on a penalty kick in the first overtime period against GW saved the Spartans from another postseason heartbreak.
Joining Cochran and Seams in the back has been Dawson Trusty and Beverage who also cleared a ball off the line in the second overtime period to keep the Spartans alive.
“I don’t know where we would be without them. Having Dawson playing alongside Adam has been crucial for his development and confidence. He is a lot like Adam. He has scored two goals this year and one was from 40 yards out,” Lemine said. “Drew is our glue guy. A lock-down defender and someone who can spray the ball around as well.”
Just as it was against the talented GW strikers, East will have it’s hand full with Wheeling Park on the back line.
“Tresz McLeod is arguably the best player in the state. We didn’t get to see him live, but he is just a sophomore and he has 35 goals and 14 assists. He is legit. They serve the ball to him a lot,” Lemine said. “I don’t think he is super quick, but he gets the ball of his foot and he shoots quick. He is really good in the air and we have placed a focal point on him. We have to decrease the service to him originally, but if he gets the ball, we have to have a couple of guys running at him.”
The Patriot defenders will also create some issues for Greenbrier East up top in the attacking zone.
“They run a very specific formation and it doesn’t really suit what we do. It has the potential to devastate what we do. We have had a lot of time to break down film to know the nuances of what they are doing and how their players tick. So we can adjust what we are doing to make it work,” Lemine said. “We aren’t going to change what we are doing. We just need to figure out what we need to do to make it work against what Wheeling Park does.”
The second boys AAA semifinal of the day will feature No. 2 seed Hurricane battling No. 3 seed Spring Mills. That match will be played 30 minutes after the East-Park match.
The two winners will meet for the AAA boys soccer title Saturday morning at 10 a.m.