WILMINGTON — Moving into fall sports each school year for the last five seasons New Hanover Coach T.J. Rennie downplayed the Wildcats chances of making a run through the conference and into the playoffs. During that same time, New Hanover has emerged as one of the top local programs; this season was no different.
The Wildcats claimed a Mideastern Conference Championship with a 10-1-1 mark in one of the tougher divisions across the eastern part of the state. New Hanover’s 19-4-1 overall record was good for an 81 percent winning percentage as the black and orange carried its success into the fourth round of the state playoffs after advancing to the 4A East Regional in 2015.
Under Rennie’s direction, the Wildcats have three conference titles, made it to the final four in the state three times, with a pair of fourth round appearances to help put Mideastern Conference soccer on the map.
Successful programs at Laney, Ashley and Hoggard have also aided the effort as compared to perennial powerhouses from the Raleigh and Greensboro areas when it comes to eastern North Carolina.
The league’s seven coaches recently convened to vote on all-conference teams and Rennie was named Mideastern Conference Coach of the Year. His senior goal keeper, Roman Lewis, earned Mideastern Conference Player of the Year honors.
Lewis has enjoyed a ton of success as a result of Rennie’s attention to detail and ability to get the most out of his players. New Hanover’s back line organization was second to none as the Wildcats conceded just eight goals in 12 league games and 18 scores in 24 games played this season. Lewis logged nearly 1,400 minutes in goal, with a 0.8 goals against average. He finished his senior year with 14 shutouts.
Joining Lewis on the First-Team All-Conference list was a group of talented athletes. If this group of 11 were to take the field anywhere in the nation they’d be a tough draw for any club level squad.
Midfielders Declan Payne (New Hanover), Paul Horning (New Hanover) and Dom Toone (Ashley) stood out in their own individual right this season, while Cesar Cruz (Hoggard), Andrew Robinson (Hoggard), Tristan Nelson (Laney), Josh Chapman (Ashley) and Moss Lewis (New Hanover) were among the top attackers across the region. The presence of Logan Gray (Laney) and Geo Avila (Ashley) in the back line round out an all-star list to earn first-team accolades.
Nelson set a school record at Laney for goals (29) and points (63) in a season. Jackson Young was named Second-Team All-Conference, finishing sixth on the all-time scoring list at Laney, with 47 points in 73 games played.
Since Coach Greg Marinich took over at Ashley, the Screaming Eagles have been nothing short than impressive. First-Team All-Conference picks Josh Chapman, Geo Avila and Dom Toone have been a big reason for Ashley’s success.
The Screaming Eagles totaled 34 wins in two the past two seasons, with Marinich at the helm, including a 19-3-2 record inside the conference.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Roman Lewis, New Hanover
COACH OF THE YEAR: T.J. Rennie, New Hanover
TEAM SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD: Topsail
- Roman Lewis, New Hanover (15 clean sheets, 0.8 goals against)
- Dominic Toone, Ashley
- Cesar Cruz, Hoggard
- Tristan Nelson, Laney (29 goals/6 assists)
- Paul Horning, New Hanover (3 goals/2 assists), including a key equalizer against Ashley.
- Declan Payne, New Hanover (8 goals/6 assists)
- Andrew Robinson, Hoggard
- Josh Chapman, Ashley
- Geovany Avila, Ashley
- Logan Gray, Laney
- Moss Lewis, New Hanover (9 goals/6 assists)
- Matthew Moore, Hoggard
- Jackson Young, Laney
- Tanner Gallen, Hoggard
- Joshua Madole, Topsail
- Dylan Daughtridge, Ashley
- Justin Balderson, Ashley
- Angel Morrales, West Brunswick
- David Holden, New Hanover
- Logan Acuna, Laney
- Sawyer Royall, Hoggard
- Wyatt Williams, Hoggard