Brace yourself for the wail of Scottish bagpipes as the West Virginia Highlanders FC Men’s Soccer Club take to the pitch for their season opener next weekend. Coming off a second-place finish last season the club and its growing fanbase smell a championship season at hand for 2023. The club’s first match is Saturday May 20, 2023, 2:00 pm at the Highlands Sports Complex (Exit 10 Cabela Drive).
In just three seasons, the Highlanders are competing at the highest-level of the Ohio Valley Premier League (OVPL), finishing second place in 2022 League Championships. This is no tiny feat for Wheeling which is the smallest community in the OVPL. The Highlanders have quickly commanded their way through a league with teams that have considerably larger talent pools available in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.
The club’s manager and head coach Ryan Wall, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, attributes some of the team’s quick success to relationships he built playing at the collegiate level here in the U.S. As a four-year starter and a Captain at Rio Grande University (Ohio), Wall excelled with honors on the pitch. After his playing days he moved onto coaching at Wheeling (Jesuit) University working under the tutelage of Head Coach Jim Regan.
“My background in the game at the collegiate level has helped our club identify and recruit the players needed to upshoot a team quickly at this level,” says Wall. Indeed, trust has been critical in convincing players, families, and coaches that a high-caliber adult club is just what the area needs to feed the growing interest in the sport.
“This level of player development has been missing in our area,” Wall continues, “college players need to continue training in the summer months. This league brings a level of player development that was only available if our college caliber athletes spent their summers in other parts of the country.”
In addition to player development, the Highlanders hope to make this high-level game more accessible to the general community. The team runs soccer camps for youth in the Ohio Valley throughout the year, hoping to broaden the games appeal for families.
Admission to matches is free. Refreshments are available for purchase at conveniently located concession stands. A new VIP area that offers outstanding views of the match and additional libations will be available this season.
“Fans can expect a fast-paced, attractive style of play, and of course plenty of bagpipes blaring when we score,” says Wall.
Follow the Highlanders action on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/highlanderswv/ and their website https://www.wvhighlanders.com.