If there were any doubts Hylton could rightfully boast it had the team of the decade in boys soccer, Ken Krieger's Bulldogs put them to rest last weekend in Norfolk. By winning its fourth Virginia AAA state title in the 1990s, Hylton moved ahead of Kempsville, which won three this decade.
Two of Kempsville's state titles came in 1991 and 1992 -- before Hylton fielded a full varsity team. Hylton opened without a senior class in fall 1991, and the boys soccer team went 12-2-2 the next spring, finishing second in the Commonwealth District. Since then, the Bulldogs have won six of seven Northwestern Region titles and all seven Cardinal District titles. And on Saturday, they defended their Virginia AAA state title with a 1-0 overtime victory over Oakton.
The Virginia High School League has recognized an AAA champion in boys soccer since 1982. Hylton is now tied for second in state titles with Kempsville, behind Lake Braddock, which has five, including four in the 1980s. Woodbridge has appeared in the state final seven times -- more than any school -- but has won only twice.
"[Krieger] definitely has the depth," said Kempsville Coach Kevin Denson, whose 15-year record at the Virginia Beach school is 203-42-17. "I don't think I've ever been able to come off the bench as much as he can. I've had some very talented starting 11s, but for him to have a player [Shaun Krothe] who has played very little score the winner in sudden-death overtime says a lot about the program. I think the Lake Braddock teams in the '80s were similar to Hylton in that they had two or three of the best players in the state, but they were probably not as deep, either."
Jac Cicala, now the women's soccer coach at George Mason, led the Lake Braddock boys to state titles in 1982, 1983, 1988 and 1989. His record in nine seasons was 104-17-6.
At 155-10-9, Krieger's record is even better, and he has done it with teams of different styles. Last year's Bulldogs finished undefeated at 20-0-1, scoring more than 70 goals and earning a No. 1 national ranking from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. This year's team (22-1-1) struggled to score in many games -- the Bulldogs totaled 58 goals -- but set a Virginia AAA record with 16 shutouts. The final NSCAA national spring soccer poll will be released June 14.
Hylton was undefeated in "real time" -- its only loss came in penalty kicks to Oakton in the Herndon Invitational final during spring break.
"A lot of coaches have tried to tell me that was a tie," Krieger said. "I tell them, `No, it's a loss.' Every team in that tournament could have tied all their games, but they wouldn't have gone to the final. We didn't prepare ourselves as well as maybe we should have for a tournament final because it was so early in the season, but nobody imagined it would go to penalty kicks."
Immediately after his team won the penalty-kick tiebreaker, Oakton Coach T.J. White said Hylton was not only the better team but the best team in the state. After Saturday, White no doubt wished his assessment hadn't been so on target.
Krieger's winning percentage at Hylton is an astounding .891. By comparison, Cicala's at Lake Braddock was .819, and Denson's at Kempsville is .775. Although Maryland and Virginia high schools do not play one another in soccer, Krieger's success ranks with the top fall soccer coaches. Oakland Mills's Don Shea has nine state championships, but none of those has been in Maryland's Class 4A, the classification for the state's largest schools. Bill Stara won six at Centennial and has two at River Hill, which opened in 1996.
A common question Krieger fields, at times even from his own players, is which of the Hylton teams is the best. He gives the nod to the 1993 team, the only known squad in Virginia AAA boys soccer to go undefeated and untied.
"Obviously, we've had a lot of good teams and several great teams," Krieger said. "But when my players want to know, I ask them: `Did you lose a game? Did you tie a game?' There is only one team that didn't, and you can't take away any credit from the others, but for some reason, that team won every game."
CAPTION: David Stokes (15) goes airborne for Hylton, which last weekend won its fourth Virginia AAA state championship, the most in the 1990s.