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Unfinished: Graham Boys Soccer

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BLUEFIELD (WVVA) - For the last three seasons, the G-Men hadn't quite gotten over the hump.

"We got a lot accomplished, but we still came up a little bit short," senior Alexander White admitted.

Three-straight trips to the postseason, including a pair of 2A state quarterfinals from 2017 to 2019, all ended in a loss.

"It pushes you," fellow senior Connor White said. "You want to do better and you want to win. It's frustrating and disappointing when you can't get to where you want to be."

But this year?

This year was going to be different.

"Everybody that was starting last year was going to be starting this year," head coach George Aiello said. "So, this was definitely going to be a special year for this team."

What made the G-Men dangerous was their unified drive to succeed.

"Everyone was working really hard," Connor said. "No one was slacking off -- if coach went out the the car to get equipment -- no one was skipping laps or walking."

"I just saw the look in everyone's eye," Alexander recalled. "They really looked like they wanted it."

"I think we had one goal. And that goal was state championship," Aiello stated. "We were going to have shirts made that had 'one' on them. That 'one' was for one goal, one mission and it was to get there."

And they were going to do just that -- together as a family.

"I've been playing travel soccer here with some of the younger sophomores and juniors my whole life, and I played travel with the guys in the senior class for the last couple years too," Alexander said. "We were really close and it just made us better on the field."

"I tell my boys they need to know three things," Aiello said. "The three things I tell them is that I believe in them, I trust them and I care about them. I think that's got us so close and where we were."

After a competitive preseason and more than three weeks of practice -- the VHSL put a stop to all spring sports on March 23. The season was officially tabled on May 8.

"I was just kind of shocked, because I never really thought the whole thing would get cancelled," Alexander admitted.

"It took a minute to sink in," Connor said. "I didn't really think about it at first."

"Then I went on Twitter and saw Craig Hrovatic's post. It said 'well we had a good run,'" he continued. "I think that's when it really set in."

Just like that, Graham's soccer season was over.

"It hurts for me for the boys because I care about them so much," Aiello said. "I knew what their goal was, and I knew how hard they worked."

"It's heartbreaking for us seniors, but it also hurts for the underclassmen because they also thought this year was going to be our year and that this would be our best chance," Connor said. "So for them -- I don't want them to lose hope and to stop trying as hard and working as hard in the coming years just because we're gone."

Aiello knows his team will be back in 2021. But, he can't help but reflect on the success of his six seniors.

"They were the 2019 region champions. They got to host their first quarterfinal game here at East River," he said. "Our hope was that they were going to host the district tournament here, the regional tournament here, and get to host another quarterfinal for the state."

Those tournaments won't be played this season, but it hasn't kept the guys from appreciating the bigger picture.

"I know that a lot of these guys have been my best friends, and will be my best friends throughout college -- and throughout life," Alexander said.

Nick Dugan

Sports Director

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