The Gallia Academy Blue Devils do intend to build upon a historic season.
The Point Pleasant Black Knights and Lady Knights simply aim to improve.
And Ohio Valley Christian School simply wants to field a varsity club.
Those are the backdrops for the Ohio Valley Publishing area’s four soccer squads, as the 2017 season schedules have been officially released.
For the Blue Devils — despite the loss of 13 players from last season’s team due to graduation, transfer or the one-year foreign exchange program — they do have a target upon their backs this year.
Gallia Academy is also under a new head coach in Cory Camden, but is coming off its most successful season in school history — albeit overall brief.
After several struggling seasons, the Blue Devils — under former coach Richard Isberner — captured the program’s only sectional championships in the past two years.
Last season, Gallia Academy also established a single-season school record for victories with 11 — and earned a share of the Ohio Valley Conference championship with South Point.
It was the Blue Devils’ only league championship in the sport — its initial season in the OVC after long being a member of the now defunct Southeastern Ohio Athletic League.
The OVC, in fact, was in its first official season as a soccer conference — with Gallia Academy, South Point, Chesapeake, Fairland and Rock Hill all having teams.
The Blue Devils’ double round-robin rotation with the remainder of the OVC includes Fairland (Aug. 22 and Sept. 21), Rock Hill (Aug. 31 and Oct. 10), South Point (Sept. 7 and Oct. 3) and Chesapeake (Sept. 12 and Sept. 28).
Both South Point and Gallia Academy amassed 7-1 league records a year ago —with both winning on the other’s home pitch.
The Blue Devils also have home-and-home bouts against OVCS (Sept. 9 and Sept. 30) and Point Pleasant (Aug. 29 and Sept. 14), as the OVCS at Gallia Academy match on Saturday, Sept. 30 is for the annual Holzer Cup.
Gallia Academy also has Alexander on the docket twice, and travels to Jackson on Tuesday, Sept. 5 and to Circleville on Saturday, Sept. 23.
For those into counting, that’s eight league and eight non-league matches, as the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows 16 total tilts in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission permits 20 total matches, as the Black Knights open their campaign on Saturday, Aug. 19 against visiting Ravenswood.
Speaking of Ravenswood, that’s whom Point Pleasant pitched a 4-0 shutout against last season — capturing its first sectional tournament triumph in five years.
The young Black Knights of a year ago notched a 9-12-1 overall record.
This year, the only home-and-home games are against the Blue Devils (Aug. 29 and Sept. 14) — and against Shady Spring on Saturday, Sept. 16 and Tuesday, Oct. 10.
The match at Shady Spring on Oct. 10 will conclude the Black Knights’ regular season.
There are also two matches that are initially listed as “TBA” — at home on Tuesday, Sept. 5 and away on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Other home affairs include Teays Valley Christian (Aug. 22), Cabell-Midland (Aug. 26), Huntington St. Joseph (Sept. 12), Warren (Sept. 23), St. Marys (Sept. 27), Parkersburg South (Sept. 28) and Williamstown (Sept. 30).
Other road shows feature Lincoln County (Aug. 28), Nitro (Aug. 30), Cross Lanes Christian (Sept. 11), Ohio Valley Christian (Sept. 19), Huntington (Sept. 21) and Sissonville (Oct. 7).
The Lady Knights are scheduled to open their season on Saturday, Aug. 12 —traveling to Cross Lanes Christian before the first of two tilts with South Harrison (Aug. 18 and Sept. 2).
Point Pleasant plays two matches as well with Lincoln County (Aug. 29 and Oct. 9), Williamstown (Sept. 7 and Oct. 3) and Shady Spring (Sept. 9 and Sept. 18).
After the opening South Harrison match, the Lady Knights’ next three are all at home —against Saint Albans (Aug. 19), Hurricane (Aug. 24) and Poca (Aug. 26).
Other home duels include Cabell-Midland (Sept. 13), Ripley (Sept. 16), Warren (Sept. 23), Grafton (Sept. 30) and Spring Valley (Oct. 14) — with the Spring Valley match set to conclude the regular season.
The Lady Knights’ other two road dates are at Nitro on Tuesday, Sept. 5 and at Huntington St. Joseph on Thursday, Sept. 14.
For OVCS, unfortunately the Defenders have struggled with numbers recently — and are doing so again this summer.
Still, the fall schedule is set — with 16 matches on the docket like the Blue Devils.
The only single matches for the season include Belpre (Aug. 21), Wood County Christian (Aug. 25), Ironton St. Joseph (Sept. 7) and Point Pleasant (Sept. 19) — as the home contest against Belpre kicks off the year.
The Defenders do have home-and-home matches against Pike Christian (Aug. 29 and Sept. 12), Grace Christian (Sept. 1 and Sept. 26), Gallia Academy (Sept. 9 and Sept. 30), Calvary Christian (Sept. 15 and Oct. 10), Teays Valley Christian (Sept. 22 and Oct. 7) and Rock Hill (Sept. 28 and Oct. 12).
Point Pleasant is the only WVSSAC school on the slate, while OHSAA schools include Gallia Academy, Rock Hill, Belpre and Ironton St. Joseph.
The complete schedules for the four OVP area soccer squads can be found inside today’s sports section.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106