By TOM BRAGG
Charleston Daily Mail
CHARLESTON - Defense was a staple of George Washington's unbeaten run through the 2013 high school soccer season, so it was fitting when the Patriots won the state championship with a 1-0 victory in the final.
At the back, commanding the defense that allowed a state-low 0.21 goals against per game during the regular season, was senior goalkeeper Garrett Phillips. The Patriots, with Phillips in command, shut out their final three postseason opponents - Woodrow Wilson, Jefferson and Parkersburg - to claim the program's third state championship. Phillips was honored Saturday as the boys' high school soccer player of the year and captain of the Class AAA All-State team as voted on by the West Virginia Sportswriters Association.
''His strength was the ability to react,'' George Washington coach Tom Hopper said. ''He's been a goalkeeper for along time obviously. Last year he as just starting to come into his own and this year he stepped it up quite a bit. He understands the positions and he knows how to react to things. He's a good athlete and combine that with his experience and that's what made things work for him.''
Entering the postseason, George Washington had not allowed more than one goal in any game during the regular season, but Capital (two) and South Charleston (three) combined to score more on GW in the first two playoff games than the rest of the Patriots' opponents had combined to score (four) all season.
Phillips said at the state tournament that his goal entering the season was to get 19 shutouts, and with 16 on his record after the sectional round he knew reaching that goal would be a challenge.
Hopper said the team took to Phillips' direction and the results showed on the pitch.
''Obviously he knows those guys and he knew how to direct them,'' Hopper said.
''They were where he wanted them to be and to their credit they listened. They never questioned what he was doing back there.''
Phillips was aided in that shutout quest by a pair of fellow All-State first team players - midfielder Daniel Glines (10 goals scored) and defender Connor Boyd. Scoring goals was a concern Phillips said he had for the team prior to the season but as things progressed that worry turned to confidence.
''I've been playing with them my whole life,'' he said. ''I was more concerned with the players up top and our goal scoring because I knew we had a strong back. We build from the back up and our guys got it done.''
George Washington leads all schools with five first or second team selections.
''Most of the have played together for a while and as a result they all felt comfortable,'' Hopper said. ''By and large it was a very strong group.''
GW's state championship game opponent, Parkersburg, placed two players on the first team. Goalkeeper Reid Strobel and midfielder Evan Rhodes were honored.
Oak Hill's Jacob Kemlock, Buckhannon-Upshur's Marty Elliott and Martinsburg's Tristen Reid were chosen as first team forwards. Joining Glines and Rhodes in the first team midfield are Huntington's Max Simpson and Hurricane's Guillermo Ugarte (31 goals). The first team defenders are Boyd, South Charleston Devonyet Harris, Jefferson's Austin Doughty and Wheeling Park's Grant Robertson.