EAST RIVER – The Graham boys soccer team returns to VHSL Class 2 state tournament action tonight when the G-Men (16-0) host Radford (15-4-1) in an opening round match at East River Soccer Complex.
Elsewhere in the state, Glenvar (18-0) hosts Virginia High (12-7-1), defending state champ Nandua (14-1) hosts Central Woodstock (16-4-1) and Clarke County (19-0) hosts Bruton (9-10-1) in Berryville, Va.
“I like our chances. We’re going to go out there and play our game and play as hard as we’ve played this year. and do the best we can, ”said Graham head coach George Aiello
The winners will advance to the VHSL Class 2 Final Four, which will be played at Salem High School on Friday and Saturday. The G-Men played on that field back when Aiello led them to the Final Four in 2016.
Graham has been an aggressive offensive team, as always, this season led by Ben Morgan, Dennis Thomas, Carter Nipper and Ethan Aiello.
“I’ve had boys who can score before, but I feel like we’re pretty balanced,” said Aiello, who has led the G-Men to nine state tournament appearances. “But I do have boys that can score, that’s for sure. Ethan’s a defender but he can come up and score. Dennis is a striker, Ben is a striker and Carter is a midfielder. They all have the skill to score. I think I’ve had 12 different players score this year.
Ethan Aiello also does a banner job hanging with the back line. Fellow defenders Aidan Bowers, Jackson Ward, Cameron Thomas and Dylan Nash have helped him carry most of the load during the regular season. But the G-Men have enough depth to weather the inevitable knocks and dings of physical postseason play.
“Cameron got hurt in our last game and we put Jacob White in for him,” said Coach Aiello. “We’ve probably put him in everywhere on the field this season. He stepped up pretty big when Camreon got hurt the other day. ”
Veteran Nic Knowles, a 6-foot-3 senior, will once again be in goal for the G-Men.
“Nic has only let 13 goals in this year. We’re 31-1 over the last two years. So that’s not a bad record, ”said Coach Aiello, who has led Graham to the Final Four twice before and led them to the state finals last season.