Coming off a memorable run to the program’s first-ever North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Championship game, postseason awards are rolling in for the Laney soccer team. Hoggard and Topsail also received high praise on the volleyball court following a vote by the league’s seven coaches announcing this year’s all-conference selections.
Wesley Nelson took Mideastern Conference Player of the Year honors in soccer as the senior forward tallied 22 goals in 24 appearances, helping guide the Bucs to a 20-4-3 mark. Laney finished second in league play and used a 10-game winning streak to advance to the state title match.
“Despite missing three league games due to injury, Wes led our side in points and was second in both goals and points in our conference,” said Laney Head Coach Jamie Noble. “He is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever coached. His technical ability has improved greatly over the last two seasons and he scored some big goals for us this year.”
Nelson netted six game winners this season, including the game winner at Hoggard and against Green Hope in round two of the tournament.
After spending most of his childhood in China due to employment opportunities for his dad, Nelson quickly made an impact on the pitch as a junior and helped his team finally push to the final game of the season.
In 51 games played for the Blue and Gold, he amassed 40 total goals, 15 assists and 95 points.
“Last season he snuck up on people being new to the league and I thought it gave him an advantage over the other teams,” Noble added. “This season teams were fully aware of him and he still had a fantastic year.”
As a 6-foot, 3-inch target at the top of the Bucs attack, Nelson gave his teammates, including his younger brother Tristan, an opportunity to succeed. He made the North Carolina High School Coaches Association All-State Team and a nomination for the East-West All-Star game next summer.
Teammates David Dailey, Nathaniel Lorenz and Robert Atkinson were also named First-Team All-Conference. Dailey had a team-high 17 assists, while Atkinson and Lorenz proved to be difference makers across the midfield.
Ashley went on an 18-game winning streak to start the year thanks to the efforts of All-Conference members Duenis Avila and goalkeeper Ryan Keller. Greg Marinich was recognized as Mideastern Conference Coach of the Year in his first season on the sidelines for the Screaming Eagles.
John Evans and Jack Kiernan led New Hanover on a run through the 4A playoffs that saw Wildcats compete in five straight road games during postseason play, ultimately falling in the 4A East Regional to Laney 1-0 in double overtime. Kiernan led the conference with 24 goals scored.
Rounding out this year’s All-Conference First-Team picks were Jared Roberston (Hoggard), Cesar Cruz (Hoggard) and Tristan Murphy (West Brunswick). Robertson and Cruz played big roles for Hoggard, with 29 combined goals. Cruz also recorded 14 assists as the Vikings finished third in league play.
Veteran leader Ron Strickland was named Mideastern Conference Coach of the Year in volleyball. Hoggard cruised to another league title this fall, while junior Hannah Pugh of West Brunswick was honored as Player of the Year.
Pugh had 280 kills and 214 digs for the Trojans with her senior season still ahead.
Logan Smith and Madie Schider guided the Vikings to a perfect 12-0 mark in conference and 16-3 overall record. Hoggard went to the second round of the state tournament and Smith’s ability to set the offense played a huge part in the team’s success. She recorded 415 assists as a senior, with 109 kills. Schider anchored the defense for Strickland. The junior libero averaged 18.3 digs per match and 347 digs during the year.
Topsail’s trio of Payton Schoenleber, Madi Ford and Marlee Marrotta rounded out first-team picks. The Pirates placed second in the split 3A/4A conference. Ford and Shoenleber served as a one-two punch in the attack, while Marrotta secured the back line.
Ford had 213 kills in 102 sets played and Shoenleber recorded a .287 hitting percentage. Shoenleber and Marrotta also combined for 109 aces from the service line. Marrotta led the conference with 563 digs, averaging 19.4 per match.
Player of the Year: Wesley Nelson, Laney
Coach of the Year: Greg Marinich, Ashley
Team Sportsmanship Award: South Brunswick
- Tristan Murphy, West Brunswick
- John Evans, New Hanover
- Jack Kiernan, New Hanover
- Duenis Avila, Ashley
- Ryan Keller, Ashley
- Jared Robertson, Hoggard
- Cesar Cruz, Hoggard
- Robert Atkinson, Laney
- Nathaniel Lorenz, Laney
- David Dailey, Laney
- Wesley Nelson, Laney
Player of the Year: Hannah Pugh, West Brunswick
Coach of the Year: Ron Strickland, Hoggard
Team Sportsmanship: New Hanover
- Madie Schider, Hoggard
- Logan Smith, Hoggard
- Hannah Pugh, West Brunswick
- Madi Ford, Topsail
- Payton Schoenleber, Topsail
- Marlee Marrotta, Topsail