West Stokes soccer team finished their season in a challenging 0-1 match against Hendersonville (17-6, 10-2) in the first round of the NCHSAA playoffs on Nov. 4.
“The guys played extremely hard and gave themselves a chance to win against a talented and physical team on the road. It was as hard as they’ve played all year but unfortunately gave up a late goal in our sudden death overtime period,” said head coach Andrew O’Neal.
The Wildcats finished 10-8-3 and 2-4-2 in the Western Piedmont Conference.
“Some of our senior leaders stepped up and played great and should feel good about how they ended their high school careers. Hendersonville is one of the better teams we’ve faced all year and they were very deserving to win,” the coach said.
O’Neal, who’s worked with the soccer program for the past four years, said he was pleased with the way his team bought into summer workouts and could see vast improvements throughout the season.
“I think they really learned how to defend well as a team. Group defending is what kept us in the games against more talented teams like Surry Central, Forbush, and Hendersonville,” he said.
West relied on the experience of seniors Nate Hale, Trent Washer, Jaden Knowles, Trey France, Thomas Rutherford, and Cole Hornaday.
“This is a good group that will be missed. The majority of our seniors really took ownership of the team. Captains Trent Washer and Nate Hale will be missed in the future. It was their team and they did a great job of leading by example on and off the field,” O’Neal said.
Twice this season, West and South Stokes battled for a win and tied 0-0.
“South plays extremely hard and they’re athletic. Cody Rogers and Matt Mudd made it very difficult for us to get anything going offensively with their speed in the back,” O’Neal said. “Coach Bowman really gets his guys playing hard and it was two extremely fun and competitive soccer games. I think they’ll be a very tough team to beat in the future as they return a lot of athletic players.”
West defeated Mount Airy earlier in the season 4-1 in a memorable matchup.
“The guys were struggling the whole first half and came back to win. The response when things weren’t going well was nice to see from our older guys,” he said.
West utilized their skilled group of defenders. Offensively, Washer and Hornaday finished with over 40 goals and 10 assists combined.
“Coach Hall deserves a lot of credit for his work this year and how far along he helped our first-year goalie Patrick Thigpen. It was a position we were unsure about coming into this season and it wound up being one of our solid spots due to their work,” O’Neal said.
The coach believes the program will continue to improve through their freshman and sophomore group.
“They’re great kids who showed up to all of our workouts and came to practice with a positive attitude every day whether they were playing a lot or not. I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.