BECKLEY — Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of West Fairmont’s soccer program, the Polar Bear girls’ team had every intention of capping things off with a state championship — the first in school history.

Unfortunately for coaches Debbie Cattafesta and Susan Dalton, a state title just wasn’t in the cards this year.

Instead, it was Parkersburg’s girls’ team that captured its first championship on the same day the Big Reds’ boys’ squad won its fourth state title and second straight.

“It means the world to us,” PHS senior defender Ellen Kist said. “Last year we both made it here and the guys won and we didn’t. It was a long ride home with the guys cheering and being excited.

“Honestly, we waited a year for this. We’ve been working all year just to come back and do this.”

By no means, however, do the Polar Bear girls have anything to be ashamed of. This program has come too far for too long to leave here with that mentality.

Two years ago, West lost in the sectional championship to rival East Fairmont.

The following season, which was last year, West enjoyed a record-breaking year by winning its first sectional and regional championships before falling in the state semifinals to eventual state champion Elkins.

West took one more step further this year, reaching the state championship match for the first time in school history. However, Parkersburg prevailed with a 1-0 overtime win on Chelsey Maiden’s goal.

“I’m very proud of these girls,” Cattafesta said. “They’re a very special team, and this has been a rewarding experience. I know they’re upset right now, but it was a hard-fought game.”

Parkersburg and West met during the regular season with the Polar Bears prevailing, 1-0.

Polar Bears senior goalkeeper Ryann Moore took notice of the Big Reds following that victory and knew Parkersburg would be greatly motivated for a little payback.

“In a regular season game, you usually don’t see anyone cry after a loss,” Moore recalled. “But after we beat them, they were pretty upset about that. They really wanted it today. They wanted revenge.”

You can call it revenge. You can call it payback. You can call it whatever you want

But the most important thing to note was that it was an excellent soccer match. It was everything a state soccer championship is supposed to be.

“What a great game that was. Fairmont Senior has an excellent team. We had our hands full trying to contain them and still mount an attack of our own,” PHS coach Mike Lockney said. “When we played them earlier in the season, it was about as close as it could be. And I thought this game was a great battle as well.

“We looked forward to playing the game beforehand because we felt like it was between the two of us to decide the state championship. And I think from watching the game that was probably true.”

It was a close match. It was exciting. It was nailbiting. And it was especially thrilling for the Big Reds.

But at the same token, it was heartbreaking for West to come so close to a state title without actually winning it all.

“I think as much as it hurts for us to lose,” West senior Ryleigh Nucilli said, “we’re going to look back and know how much we did and how much our team did for the program during our time here.”

The senior class of six players — Nucilli, Moore, Christine Nolan, Lisa Cattafesta and sisters Adrienne and Rachel Haswell — helped put the Polar Bears on the state soccer map as well as the eastern region.

“Even talking to people, they were saying a few years ago that Fairmont Senior was a joke and there was no competition,” Moore recalled. “And now everyone that plays us has to bring their best.”

As disappointing as the loss is to swallow right now for the Polar Bears, especially the seniors, the memories will last for a lifetime.

“It would have been nice to take a state championship home but second place isn’t too bad,” Nolan said.

“How many teams in West Virginia wanted to be here?” Moore asked. “And we were second place. We accomplished a lot here.”

While the six seniors leave plenty of openings to be filled, next year’s team will not feature a single senior on the squad.

But the 23 freshmen and sophomores on this year’s team will all be experienced sophomores and juniors next season — not to mention another incoming freshman class.

So there will be brighter days in the very near future for the Polar Bears.

“I have to admit that my seniors are going to leave a big hole in our team,” Coach Cattafesta said. “I also have to admit that we have a lot of talent that’s still out there. So we’ll see. I feel they’ll be very competitive and that we would love to come back next year.”

There’s a pretty good omen favoring West’s chances of not only returning to the state tournament, but also winning the school’s first championship.

The last four teams to win the girls’ state soccer title all finished runner-up the previous season. It’s a list that now includes Parkersburg, along with Elkins, Huntington and Parkersburg South.

Whether it’s a sign of things to come, we’ll just have to wait and see.

E-mail Andrew Manzo at

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