Saturday, March 2, 2024

Fall preview: high school soccer teams ready for competitive season

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WILMINGTON- Though the 2016-17 academic year doesn’t get underway until later this month, the fall sports season is upon us and high school soccer teams have been training since the first official day of practice on Aug. 1.

Local programs have done an excellent job over the past half-decade creating a competitive culture across the area, which has put Wilmington on the map when compared to some of the other powerhouses in the state. That was evident this summer as Laney, New Hanover and Ashley all had representation at the annual North Carolina East-West All-Star Game.

Logan Gray.
Logan Gray.

Laney and New Hanover are also coming off a 2015 season where they played what has been coined as the “greatest high school soccer game ever played” in the Port City as the Bucs edged New Hanover 1-0 in double overtime to clinch their first ever appearance in a 4A North Carolina High School Athletic Association Championship.

While Laney eventually came up short in the state title match, the Bucs are eager for an encore performance.

That was evident during Tuesday’s season opener as Laney grabbed a 4-1 result over Jack Britt to begin its quest for another successful season. Meanwhile, New Hanover is still searching for that state championship berth after making it to the 4A East Regional final in three of the last four years under Coach T.J. Rennie.

Preseason favorites vying for Mideastern Conference Player of the Year honors include: Cesar Cruz (Hoggard), Declan Payne (New Hanover), Tristan Nelson (Laney), David Dailey (Laney), Roman Lewis (New Hanover) and Dom Toone (Ashley).

Cruz notched 11 goals as sophomore for Hoggard last season. Nelson will play a key role for Laney in the attacking third, while Dailey navigates the midfield with goal scoring ability. Payne will be asked to step up for New Hanover, with Toone and Wally Avila expected to make an impact at Ashley.

Here’s a look at some of the teams competing within the Mideatsern Conference this fall.


Coach: Jamie Noble (Fifth season)

2015 season: 20-4-3 overall, 9-3 conference

The Bucs are missing their leading goal scorer from one year ago, but his younger brother, Tristan Nelson, is looking to pick up where Wesley Nelson left off. Tristan Nelson tallied 15 goals last season. Laney also has a ton of experience back from last year’s club that made it to the 4A state championship and look to be the early favorites in a competitive conference.

Top Returners- David Dailey, senior, MF; Logan Gray, senior, D; Tristan Nelson, senior, MF; Jackson Young, senior, MF; Owen Platt, senior, GK.

Newcomers: Austin Lewis, sophomore, MF; Adrian Pinder, sophomore, MF; Jackson Herren, sophomore, F.

Declan Payne.
Declan Payne.

New Hanover

 Coach: T.J. Rennie (Fifth season)

2015 record: 20-8-1 overall, 8-4 conference

Top returners: Declan Payne, senior center midfielder, Captain; Roman Lewis, senior, goalkeeper; Paul Horning, junior, center midfielder; Davis Holden, senior, center back

Click here to watch Coach Rennie preview the 2016 Wildcats.


Coach: Greg Marinich (Second season)

2015 record: 20-2-1 overall, 10-1-1 reigning conference champions

Ashley claimed the Mideastern Conference Championship last season and cruised to a 20-2-1 overall record and 10-1-1 mark in league play. The Screaming Eagles began the year on an 18-game winning streak, but need to fill the void of a nearly a dozen seniors from the year prior.

Top returners: Dom Toone, Wally Avila

Newcomers: Dylan Daughtridge


Cesar Cruz. Photo courtesy- John Crouch
Cesar Cruz. Photo courtesy- John Crouch


Coach:  Kristin Ayscue (Third season)

2015 record: 13-7-4 overall, 8-3-1 conference

Top returners: Cesar Cruz



Coach: Stan Allen (First season)

2015 record: 4-14-2 overall, 3-9 conference

Top returners: Josh Madole, Daniel “Ross” Tate, Nick Sargent

Newcomers: goalkeepers Jorge Lopez and Cheney Teague


South Brunswick

Coach: Patrick Lawson (Fifth season)

2015 record: 4-17 overall, 0-12 conference

Top returners: Adam Yalch/junior/goalie; Jacob Lopez/junior/midfield; John Pratt/junior/midfield; Ryland Hawksby/sophomore/forward.

Newcomers: Harrison Smith/junior/forward; Riley Shweppee/junior/defense.


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