The Wood County Christian boys' soccer team will attempt to win its third consecutive West Virginia Christian Athletic Tournament championship this weekend.
The No. 2 seeded Wildcats will take on Grace Christian School in the opening round Friday afternoon at noon at Schoenbaum Stadium in Charleston.
Head coach Steve Thibault's team will take an 8-5-1 season record into the tournament, and he is quite familiar with what kind of a challenge Grace Christian should present.
"Both teams are very evenly matched. We split earlier this season," said Thibault, "The game we lost we were down 5-1 before scoring four second half goals to tie it up. They scored in the last minute to win 6-5."
If Grace Christian has any chance of denying the Cats their third consecutive title, they must do something that nearly no team has been able to do the past four years, and that is to shut down Wildcat Gabe Strause.
"He's (Strause) fantastic, real explosive on the offensive end," said Thibault, "He's the leader of our team."
The WCC senior has scored an incredible 120 goals in his career, but his overall team play this season has been what has impressed his head coach.
"Gabe (Strause) has really rounded out his overall game," said Thibault, "He still has that strong will to score, but he is more concerned with us winning than himself scoring goals."
Thibault is proud of this year's team for their ability to battle through adversity, including season ending injuries to starters' Travis Smith and Matt Bush, and the soggy field they were forced to play on for much of the season due to the torrential rains this fall.
Several players have been forced to step up including Kalen Gandor, who gave the Wildcats a nice complement to go along with Strausse, at one point scoring 10 goals in a five game span.
Defensively, Luke Davis has been a key along with the emergence of first-year goal-keeper Scottie Heslop.
"Scottie (Heslop) has steadily improved all year and done a great job for us," said Thibault.
As is the case with any team, peaking at the right time is a big key to post season success, and Thibault feels his team may be doing just that.
"I'm really proud of our guys this year," said Thiabault, who has only four returning starters from last years championship squad, "We are really coming together as a team, we are hitting on all cylinders at just the right time."
If the Wildcats are fortunate to win Friday's opener, they will play again Saturday at 3 p.m. in the championship game.