To find two of the athletic year’s biggest surprises, look to South Forsyth.
There was the Lady War Eagles softball team that went 15-14-2 and made the state playoffs a year after going just 12-17. Not that it was unprecedented; South had won 17 and 20 games the previous two seasons, respectively.
And then there was girls soccer. Behind junior Rachel Shah, the county player of the year, South went 16-6 and reached the state semifinals where it lost to Parkview; again, not unprecedented, but perhaps unexpected.
In all, South had teams or individuals reach the postseason in 11 sports, a feat that War Eagles athletic director Keith Gravitt appreciated.
"We do feel good about that," Gravitt said. "It’s a memory your student-athletes leave with that lasts a long time."
Gravitt talked with Forysth County News sports editor Brian Paglia about the War Eagles’ 11 playoff teams, juggling spring sports and looking forward to fall sports returning.
What’s your overall impression of the athletic year?
"I was very happy with our athletic year. We had numerous teams reach the state playoffs and individuals qualify for state in different sports. I think a couple of highlights would be girls soccer making the Final Four at Parkview and our girls volleyball making it to the Elite 8.
"We had numerous other teams reach the playoffs like boys soccer, softball and girls basketball. It was an overall good year, and there’s always room for improvement as we look forward."
What role does your community play in the program?
"All of our schools in our county want to support our community. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the support of parents, our community businesses and alumni. We’re looking forward to the 25th anniversary of South Forsyth and celebrating year-long.
How pleased are you with 11 of 20 teams making state playoffs?
"We do feel good about that, but we want to support our coaches, and most importantly our student-athletes, in always reaching for state appearances. I think that’s part of the experience if you get the opportunity to make it beyond the regular season. It’s a memory your student athletes leave with that lasts a long time and the relationships they build along the way."
What were biggest challenges this season?
"Again, with many of the athletic programs, especially in the Metro area, there’s a push for resources as certain sports continue to grow and come on the scene. Lacrosse has been exploding. We started year with ninth grade boys team. Our volleyball team has expanded to include junior varsity and freshman teams the last couple of years now. The challenge caused by that – it’s a good problem to have – but you have pressure on facilities to provide enough time for them. We’re a very blessed county in that we have facilities from our recreational departments and even middle schools that we try to utilize their facilities when at all possible."
How did you overcome them?
"This past year, especially during the spring, had its challenges with weather. There are hurdles for your spring sports which are all outdoors. I feel so fortunate to work with the coaches at our school who work together and accommodate everyone’s needs. We’ve got a lot of pressure on our facilities during spring, especially around the stadium with lacrosse, soccer and track all trying to get time there. Again, we’re fortunate in the county."
What are your expectations for next season?
"I think you always go into a new season with high expectations and we do that as well. You measure that as you go and hope all your student-athletes stay healthy. Our football team had a great spring practice and game. I saw a lot of exciting things there. I’m ready for football to get started and watch them get kicked off. Got to be excited about volleyball and what they did last year and what they have returning. There’s a lot of high expectations there. A lot of the cross country team is returning; wrestling the same thing. We saw some individuals step up and go a little further, step the bar a little further.
"I could go through each team and say similar things. Our girls soccer team has several girls returning next year, so we feel good about that. We’re looking forward to next season. There are a lot of high expectations, and we’re excited about getting it started."