ARKERSBURG - The day of the Class AA-A sectional final soccer match, Parkersburg Catholic's Brady Kurucz took it upon himself and lit a fire under his teammates with a motivational speech.
The Crusaders are hoping that fire still exists when they meet top-ranked Charleston Catholic in today's regional championship at Ripley High School. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
"Brady was on them pretty hard," PCHS coach Shane Hartshorn said. "The one big thing he talked about was not finishing second again - that he had taken second all his life. He's showed that type of fire all year."
The seventh-ranked Crusaders enter the match with a 16-6-0 record, which is twice as many wins that any PCHS soccer program had ever produced.
"The year before I took over the program, Parkersburg Catholic won six matches - I had people asking me why I took over a losing program," Hartshorn said. "As a coach, I wanted to see if I could take this program and make them good. I don't want to take anything away from the kids because they are the ones who had the work ethic and wanted to win."
PCHS and four-time defending state champ Charleston Catholic (15-3-2) met earlier this season with the Irish posting a 2-0 shutout on Sept. 7. Charleston Catholic, which has registered eight shutouts, have outscored its two postseason opponents 10-1.
"Their midfield is real strong," Hartshorn said. "They have a couple of kids who are real good at passing the ball. They use two keepers, but don't lose much with either one of them.
"Their strength is in their numbers. They don't lose in their depth."
PCHS, which trailed Williamstown 2-0 with 13 minutes remaining in regulation during the sectional final before rallying to win 3-2 on Peter Keiser's goal in overtime, have played on turf only one other time.
In order to get acclimated to the surface, the Crusaders practiced this week at Parkersburg High School's Stadium Field.
"It's hard to judge the ball on turf," Hartshorn said. "The ball moves so fast and comes off the ground differently than grass."
Of the nine seniors on the PCHS roster, six start.
"Most of them started playing soccer two years ago and have done very well," Hartshorn said. "If we were to win, it would prove that Parkersburg Catholic is one of the top soccer programs in the area."