THE GRIND: West Forsyth's Bailley Concatto
Coach: Will Gifford, first season
Last season: 0-16
Key returners: GK Devin Wozniak, Sr.; MF Jake Sharp, Sr.; MF Pastor Lara, Sr.
Key newcomers: MF Jeff Muratori, So.; MF Spencer McCannon, Fr.
Outlook: Central gave up a lot of goals last year. While they do return a solid senior keeper in Devin Wozniak, the defense is still a question mark. The Bulldogs are going to be a fairly young team this year, but Coach Gifford likes their hard work and commitment but stresses how important it will be to defend.
"I am excited about our program and what we are working to build," Gifford said. "We are counting on our seniors to lead us and some key underclassmen to step up into starting roles. We will be only as good as our ability to defend."
Coach: Chris Wilson, sixth season
Last season: 13-5, lost in Class AAAAAA first round
Key returners: D Rob Bonet, Sr.; MF Matt Elliott, Sr.; D Cameron Bennett, Sr.; MF Jalen Williams, Jr.; F Zane Ziegler, So.; MF Eoin Griffiths, So.
Outlook: Lambert had a great 2014 campaign. The Longhorns won their region and had three players named to the all-region team, but were knocked out of the state playoffs in the first round. They return several players with varsity experience, but only one starter in senior center back, Rob Bonet. Matt Elliot and Jalen Williams are the other two players on the team with two previous years of varsity experience. Offensively, they need to be more dynamic in creating chances. But Coach Wilson expects a lot from his team and says that they understand the work that’s necessary to achieve their goals.
"Our region boasts many talented players and programs," Wilson said. "… Our players are committed to achieving success and understand that it can’t be done without the highest work rate and communication."
Coach: Drew Fowler, first season
Last season: 3-14-1
Key returners: MF Jeff Michaud, Sr.; F Harry Reynolds, Sr.; MF Moises Tinoco, Sr.; D Alex Patterson, Sr.; GK Javier Ramirez, Sr.; F Holt Roberts, Jr.
Key newcomers: D Jose Boyzo, Fr.; D Zach Gilbert, So.; GK Austin Ray, Jr.
Outlook: North struggled a year ago, finishing last in the region. But first-year head coach Drew Fowler is looking to change the mentality and build a winning culture in this program. He liked the commitment he saw from his guys this offseason. They return seven upperclassmen that played significant minutes last year, including five seniors. Fowler has been impressed with their hard work and the way they’ve been leading the younger guys because he knows some of those young guys are going to play a significant role for the Raiders this spring.
"We have a great opportunity to be successful this year," Fowler said. "All we can do is work as hard as we can in preparation and show up ready to play as hard as possible consistently throughout the season."
Coach: Chris Kane, sixth season
Last season: 14-3, lost in Class A second round
Key returners: GK Luke del Balzo, Sr.; F Stephane Rivard, Sr.; D Stuart Jeans, So.
Key newcomers: MF/D Christian Girard, Fr.; F Gabe Villar, Fr.
Outlook: Pinecrest returns 70 percent of its goals from last season, including Stephane Rivard, who was all-region with 21 goals and 14 assists. The Paladins also have some freshmen that will look to bolster the attack. The back line could be an area of concern after losing their two starting center backs from a year ago, but having all-region goalkeeper Luke del Balzo back should help. He posted five clean sheets last season.
"I think one of our strengths this year will be leadership," Coach Kane said. "We have a large senior class who understand what it takes to be successful and have set the tone so far for the younger players. The guys expect to repeat their success in the region this year and go farther in the state tournament."
Coach: Tom Braun, 11th season
Last season: 8-11, lost in the Class AAAAAA first round
Key returners: D Drew Witalis, Sr.; MF Ryan Peppenhorst, Sr.; MF Owen Christiansen, Sr.; F Zach Reynolds, So.; D Scott Nearing, Jr.; D Noah Byrne, Jr.
Key newcomers: GK Niko Tzevelekos, Fr.; MF Trevor Byrne, Fr.; MF Ryan Fierle, Fr.
Outlook: South has six returning starters, with five of the six juniors and seniors, as well as three freshmen who will look to make an impact this season. Coach Braun would like to see his team’s skill and chemistry improve, but he likes the continuity, and thinks the leadership and experience will go a long way in helping this team get to where they want to go. The War Eagles are looking to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
Coach: Ahmed Gathing, second season
Last season: 7-9-1
Key returners: MF Cameron Macer, Sr.; MF Sam Roe, Sr.
Outlook: There are going to be a lot of new faces this spring for West. The Wolverines graduated their top two goal-scorers from last season, so finding goals from new places is going to be a challenge. They do return two senior midfielders in Cameron Macer and Sam Roe, both of which are committed to play at Mars Hill College next year, so they will be relying on each of them for experience and leadership.
"With the mixture of youth and experience, we plan to come together as a team once region play starts," Coach Gathing said. "Our region has many good teams so fighting for one of the top four positions is a goal for this team."