Coming off a 10-5-4 season in 2019, Ripley High School’s successful head girls soccer coach Steve Gandee realizes this year will be “very unpredictable.”
But nevertheless he’s excited to put another team out on the pitch.
For like so many other coaches, Gandee wondered if a season would ever come.
Ripley is set to get the 2020 campaign going this Thursday, September 3, on the road at rival Ravenswood.
Ripley is coming off of a season in which they outscored the opposition, 63-26.
A highlight to the season was a first-ever program win over perennial power Winfield.
“It was a tremendous night and the Lady Vikings’ effort was at the highest all season,” Gandee said in recalling the monumental win. “It was a game we looked forward to and it was great capitalizing on the opportunity.”
But even in the moment of a memorable win, Gandee couldn’t help but feel extremely bad for Winfield.
“While the victory was sweet, it was bitter to see one of their best players go down late in the game due to an ACL tear.”
It was a comment displaying the outstanding sportsmanship Gandee’s program has exhibited the past few years.
While the Winfield win was one to remember, the 2019 campaign had its share of disappointing setbacks.
“I’ve only had three matches where I’ve lost by more than one goal, and unfortunately two of them came last year,” said Gandee referring to tough defeats at the hands of state championship programs Charleston Catholic and Hurricane.
He’s looking forward to putting his latest Lady Viking squad into game competition.
“This season is a bit about redefining ourselves,” Gandee said. “From a count perspective, 13 of the 21 on the roster are sophomores and freshman. The future looks bright. With a young roster, we still have one of the most difficult schedules in the state.
“If you look at the two stretches of four back-to-back games from September 5 to September 15 (Huntington, Parkersburg, Cabell Midland and Parkersburg South) and September 29 to October 6 (Wheeling Park, Hurricane, University and Charleston Catholic) there’s a crazy amount of state tournaments represented there. Those eight programs have been near the top of the state for decades.”
Gandee and company welcome the opportunity.
“It’s an honor these programs are looking to put our Lady Vikings on their schedule,” he said. “We have three seniors who started in this program my first year and (we) recently added a fifth junior. Seven of these seniors and juniors now have two to three years experience playing for me. I expect a lot out of them to be leaders to the underclassmen. The success of the season depends upon their leadership and attitude.”
Ashley Craigo, Aubrey Flint and Laney Harper are the seniors on this Lady Viking team.
Juniors are Mia Casto, Katelyn Frashier, Kaitlyn Lawrence, Selah Stephens and Elizabeth Williams.
The sophomore class consists of Paige Anderson, Zoe Casto, Mya Casto, Grace Letart, Olivia Sias, Marissa Triana and Makayla Wriston.
Freshmen joining the program are Brooklyn Holmes, Sophie Jenkins, Garnet Kish, Sophia Lee, Addi Morrison and Emme Shamblin.
“This preseason has been filled with distractions and guidelines,” Gandee said. “Everything has to be coordinated to accommodate the COVID guidelines. It’s been a challenge. However, we are so glad to be back together on the pitch working harder each practice. I was very impressed with the group during Viking Week (first week of preseason two-a-days). There was energy and enthusiasm. There was chemistry and family. Everyone was grateful to have something which looks like an athletic season. The season is a grind. It’s extremely difficult for these girls. The season will be even more difficult with the guidelines, but I am certain these girls want this season so much.
“The coming weeks will be extremely challenging with uncertainty on games. Hurricane’s girls have already been restricted to a 14-day quarantine. We have counties skirting on the yellow/ orange in the county heat map, including Jackson. We hope to have a season and encourage our community to stay safe and healthy. Not only does Friday night lights and fall sports depend upon it, we need to keep everyone healthy.”