WHEELING - With the school year barely two weeks old, it might seem a little early to talking state championships.
Not for Wheeling Central girls' soccer coach Dave Cross.
His Maroon Knights will play for state Catholic school supremacy when the 18th Bishop's Cup kicks off today at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Pictured from left to right Wheeling Central Lady Knights captains Olivia Gazzola, Bailey Clark, and Ashton Cross and Maroon Knights Co-captain Josh Pawloski.
The annual tournament is now in its 18th year and matches Catholic teams from the Wheeling Charleston Diocese. It annually rotates between the member schools but is in Wheeling for the first time in nearly a decade.
Five teams will compete in the boys' division while four girls' teams will battle for the Bishop's Cup.
"We're excited about soccer in Wheeling," Cross said. "We have a lot of kids in the parochial school leagues and we're trying to build a program here. That was part of the motivation to bring the Bishops Cup here. It's a chance to promote Wheeling Central soccer, but also promote the city of Wheeling and Wheeling Jesuit University."
Play will begin today on both the stadium and upper field at Wheeling Jesuit.
In the boys' division, Central will take on 4-0-1 Notre Dame (Upper Field) at 2 p.m. with St. Joe (0-2-1) taking on Charleston Catholic at 4 p.m. on the stadium field. The winner of the 2 p.m. game will face Parkersburg Catholic at 6 p.m. at the stadium.
On Saturday at 10 a.m. the Huntington St. Joe JV team will play the loser of Friday's 2 p.m. game. The championship game will be played at Noon at the stadium field with the consolation game following at 2 p.m. on the upper field.
Charleston Catholic, which has won five straight boys Bishop's Cup championships, is the odds-on favorite to win the boys division. The perennial state power is 2-0, and was scheduled to face state-ranked Oak Hill Thursday night. The Irish have outscored their first two opponents 11-1.
"They've been fantastic," Cross said. "They've won eight Bishop's Cup championships in the last 10 years and Huntington St. Joe has won the other two. They don't have a football program so all their boys play soccer and they have tremendous support behind the program."
In the girls division, Cross has a little more weight to bare. The Maroon Knights (5-1) are defending the championship
"It's very important to us," Cross said of the Bishop's Cup trophy. "We set goals at the beginning of each year and that is always one of our main goals. The nice thing is, the trophy is rotating. You win, you keep the trophy for the entire year. We have a lot of football, basketball and baseball state tournament championships. We'd like to hold on to that trophy in our trophy case at the school."
Central (5-1-0) kicks off Bishop's Cup play at 2 p.m. against Madonna at 2 p.m. At 4 p.m. Huntington St. Joe (2-2-0) will face Charleston Catholic (5-0)
On Saturday the consolation game will be played at Noon followed by the 2 p.m. championship game.
Obviously Cross would like to repeat.
Again, the Charleston Catholic girls team is one of the favorite, Cross said. The Irish are off to a 5-0 start and have outscored the opposition by a hefty 33-3 count.
"They have a real good team," Cross said. "I would think they would be the favorites based on their history of winning the Cup and their record at the state level. If we have the opportunity to play them, we'll have to play outstanding soccer."
Cross is ready to get started, due in part to a large group of sponsors (15) and volunteers.
"I can't say enough about our sponsors," Cross said. "They have really stepped up to make this happen. It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of dedicated people have put in a lot of time to make this a success and a tournament that the players, parents, coaches and fans remember."