As the calendar turns towards the midway point for fall sports teams across the Wilmington area, with the weekend a wash for all events, let’s look ahead to what should be a competitive push for a majority of the programs competing in football, soccer, tennis and volleyball this season.
With consistent rainfall for the last week and soaking showers expected to continue, there’s been another shift to the high school athletic schedule as two more football games have been moved to early next week.
On the gridiron, New Hanover and Hoggard will face off on Monday, October 5. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for the conference lead, with West Brunswick also at 1-0 in league play and coming off a pair of three-score wins over North Brunswick and Ashley. The Trojans go on the road against a Topsail team reeling from three straight setbacks, but hungry to put in a good effort against their 3A counterparts.
Behind quarterback Burke Estes, New Hanover has put up 192 points through a 4-2 nonconference record, having faced perennial powerhouses Havelock and Scotland County. Hoggard has also faced an impressive list of opponents to start the season, with a defense that has allowed 10 or fewer points in four of the six games played.
Laney is 1-0 atop the division following a shutout win over Topsail, but the Bucs are looking to find consistency and improve on the 2-4 overall mark. South Brunswick hosts Laney on Monday in favorable matchup for the road team going up against a Cougars defense that has allowed 44 points per game over the last three weeks.
Listed as the No. 4 ranked team in the country by MaxPreps.com, the Ashley soccer team is off to a 13-0 start, with a 5-0 mark in conference. Hoggard will take on the Screaming Eagles for sole possession of first place on Tuesday, October 6. The Vikings have turned a few heads with recent results over crosstown rivals New Hanover and Laney, extending their win streak to five straight after starting the season 3-3-3.
Jared Robertson has seven tallies and six assists as one of the top goal scorers in the area for Hoggard, while sophomore Cesar Cruz is also emerging, with five scores and four assists.
Despite already trailing in league standings, New Hanover and Laney represent a viable threat anytime on the pitch and should make a move to contend for a favorable playoff spot in a conference that could end up with four representatives in the 4A tournament.
Wesley Nelson has already lit the lamp 10 times for the Bucs, with Tristan Nelson scoring nine goals for a Laney team with a 37-15 goal differential. Jack Kiernan is pacing New Hanover with a league lead 14 goals in 16 appearances.
Hoggard is once again the top of the class among Mideastern Conference members, jumping out to a three-game lead ahead following their 3-0 sweep over New Hanover. The Vikings have not dropped a match in league play since 2013 after battling to five set victories in three of their nine conference games this season.
Topsail is on a four-game winning streak and has a good grip on the 3A playoff spot in conference, currently in second place among the seven-member league. New Hanover and Laney are struggling as the second half of the schedule gets underway, but both teams have opportunities to win through the next few weeks to position themselves for postseason contention.
Laney has dominated the girls circuit behind seniors Suzie Schoolfield, Erin Nesselroade and Anna Porcelli. The top three individual players have helped guide the Bucs to an impressive 7-0 record in conference play. Schoolfield and Porcelli have yet to drop one match in singles play, going a combined 15-0. Nesselroade is 6-2 on court No. 1.
Kendall Hanks and Sydney Young give Laney depth in the six-player lineup, while Jessica Tucker is a 6-0 at No. 5 singles.