Newton-Conover High School’s men’s varsity soccer team, the Red Devils, has experienced amazing success over this past season.
The former Class 2A champion Red Devils are currently ranked first in the state in their division, and 45th in the nation. The team has also gone undefeated in the 2017 school year and is currently in the final run for the 2017 NCHSAA 2A Men’s Soccer Championship title.
“(The team) has been doing very well,” Athletic Director and golf coach for N-CHS John Echerd said. “There’s a lot of expectation because this group, as freshman, they won the state championship, and then last year they went undefeated and then lost in the third round of the playoffs.”
Losing in the third round of the playoffs last year took a toll on the team’s spirit, according to senior student and forward Francisco Tapia.
“For the past two years we’ve been struggling to get over the fourth round (of the championships), Tapia said. “So being able to just keep playing ‘till the fifth round (of the championships) that’s a huge achievement for (the team).”
The team has chosen the approach of focusing on one game at a time for this season, and it seems to be working.
“Right now we’re trying to think one game at a time, and not to overthink about the championship,” senior student and center midfielder Jason Mejia said. “That’s the reason why, I think, that we lost (last year in the fourth round).”
The team has been growing this year, and according to the Instructional Management Coordinator and soccer coach, Angelo Palozzi, the team’s unity on and off the field is what has grown the most.
The team’s success isn’t just due to their skills, though, but also to how closely knit the team is and how they are able to trust each other.
“At first I wasn’t sure that the players would gel,” Palozzi said. “But the older kids took in the younger kids and they built those friendships and it’s helped so much on the team. I think that’s been our biggest (accomplishment). Yeah, the wins are nice and everything, but I think those friendships have helped us get through some of these tough games.”
Students on the team have also seen how the unity has impacted the team in games.
“Whenever you play sports you get more with your teammates and the bond (that you build) goes throughout your whole high school career,” Mejia said. “You have someone who has your back for the four years that you’re here.”
The team won their last game which took place on November 16 against Lake Norman Charter. The N-CHS team is due to play their last game of the season this weekend on Saturday, November 18th at 2:05pm. This game will take place at NC State in the Dali Soccer Complex and will be for the state NCHSAA 2A Men’s Soccer Championship title. For more information and to livestream Saturday’s game, click here.
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