Pinecrest Girls Bring Talent, Experience to the Pitch
The Pinecrest girls’ soccer program has reached a level where it can be said, “The Patriots don’t rebuild, they reload.”
Eleven returnees, plus some promising newcomers from last season’s junior varsity team, and one freshman, take the field this evening for the season opener at Wilmington Hoggard. The Patriots are led by 2011 all-state selection Antonia Meyers and four other returnees that earned postseason recognition in Kristen Phelps, Keegan Cary, Ally Parziale and Jazz Jones.
Ray Blatz, who has been involved with Pinecrest soccer since 2000 as an assistant and jayvee coach, succeeds Todd Abbey as head coach. Abbey was 54-16-4 in three years, including a 17-7-1 mark last season. He also led the Patriot boys to the state final four the last three years. He will assist Blatz, and Evan Saleeby will take over as the jayvee coach.
In Hoggard, the Patriots are facing a state quarterfinalist from a year ago. The home opener on Friday is against a defending state champion Leesville Road squad that was 24-1-1 last season.
“We feel strongly that we filled in what we lost through the graduating class and will have a really successful season,” Blatz said before practice on Monday. “We have five seniors that are just tremendous leaders. They want it, and they’ve taken each one of the new players under their wing.”
Meyers, Parziale and Cary are four-year varsity players. Both of this week’s matches get under way at 6:30 p.m. The traditionally tough early schedule continues with a home date next Wednesday against Cardinal Gibbons, last year’s 3-A runner-up.
“I think it’s good to get a reality check at the beginning of the season to figure out what we have to work toward at the end of the season,” Heather Brock, a senior outside back, said.
Helping the Patriots meet the challenge is the return of the team’s top-four goal scorers from a year ago in Meyers (17 goals), Phelps (16), Kelly Palmer (nine) and Kathryn Palmer (eight). Meyers and Phelps, both seniors, will operate up front. The Palmer sisters are junior midfielders.
Blatz expects a lot of the offense to go through Parziale, a senior midfielder. Cary, another skilled senior, along with juniors Keegan Lynch and Haley Robinson, should combine to make the team strong in the center of the pitch. The midfield and up front contributors will also include newcomers in juniors Megan Thomas, Farren Allen, Hana Bornhorst and Hannah Wannall, and freshman Sofia Flores.
Jones, another junior, will be the center back. The experienced outside backs include Brock and sophomore MacKenzie Reed. Blatz will take advantage of the versatility of Cary and Lynch for help in the back as well. Moving up from the junior varsity are junior defenders Kaitlyn Conner, Devon Nowicki and Allison Schustrom.
Sophomore Abbey Crider took over as goalkeeper late last season. The only goal scored against the Patriots in three playoff matches came in the final minute of the second overtime against New Bern. She is backed up by junior Leah Frederique.
“We always have players coming back and even some of the eighth-graders that are coming next year are going to be great additions,” Meyers said, alluding to the jayvee team and a club soccer pipeline that feeds the program. “We always figure out a way to make it work.”
She also likes the chemistry that is developing on the team.
“Even with all the different personalities we can come together and have fun, and be a very successful team at the same time,” she said.
The Patriots have won 14 conference titles in a row. Their last conference loss was in 2007. The last one before that was in 2002. The deepest they have gone in the playoffs is to the fourth round in 2006 and 2010.
“The measure of our season is not just to win the conference,” Blatz, an occupational therapist with Moore County Schools, said. “Our goal is always to go as high as we can into the final four of the state.”
Feb. 29 – at Hoggard; March 2 – Leesville Road; 7 – Cardinal Gibbons; 9 – Reagan; 14 – at Lumberton; 16 – Jack Britt; 19 – at Scotland; 21 – Purnell Swett; 24 – T. C. Roberson (Brittany Showcase, Wilson); 26 –Richmond; 28 – at Hoke; April 4 – Lumberton; 5 – at Terry Sanford; 16 – Scotland; 18 – at Purnell Swett; 19 – at East Chapel Hill; 23 – at Richmond; 25 – Hoke (Senior Night); 30 – SEC tournament begins; May 9 – state playoffs begin.
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