Wildcat soccer kicked off this past week. Despite losing three out of four games played, Coach Wade Wright is optimistic about the new season. He said he purposely scheduled his team against some of the toughest teams in an attempt to strengthen the team prior to the region schedule.
"These opening non-region games aren’t exactly reflective of the competition level we will face this season," Wright said. "It was my goal to play the hardest people we could find and that proved to be so. It’s been a good week. We’ve battled through injuries and illness, and I’m pleased with how well they stepped up. There was a lot of improvement with each game. I don’t feel good about losing, but I feel good about the strategy I saw them try. Ultimately, I feel this has prepared the team for the region schedule, which start in March."
The week included a 4-0 loss to Glynn County, a 2-0 victory over Savannah Christian, a 4-1 loss to Jonesboro and a 4-1 loss to Lassiter.
The team is carrying a few battle scars from their tough opening week which includes an ankle injury to senior keeper Zach Alltop, Zach Denny receiving 16 stitches in his face after a collision against Lassiter and a severe leg bruise for Steven Guarino.
It is a rebuilding year for the Cats who are nine players shy compared to last year’s highly successful season – including the whole line.
Gone are senior team leaders such as Mitch Doud, who was drafted by the Georgia Southwestern University soccer team, Josh Biering and Campbell Berry.
To boot, former Bryan County Athlete of the Month and offensive powerhouse Brian Wood, who is a senior this year, moved to Pennsylvania. Wright said there have been some pleasant surprises in the new lineup though.
"I can see Zach Payne going to dev into a Brian Wood-esque player. He’s not as strong, but he has the speed," Wright said. "Ethan Vernon and Grayson Surges are anchoring the midfield with Nic Harris up top who was a big impact player playing off Wood last season. Even though we lost some good players, we have some depth in the new lineup."
Wright spoke of two tenth grade rookies, both football players that have made a surprising immediate impact on the midfield. "Zach Denney has proven to have solid athleticism and speed while Jay Sipe has already scored a couple goals. They add some size to this team which is something the program hasn’t had in a while."
Wright said he is also impressed with fill-in goalie Sam Vernon who is filling in for Alltop who is out for up to a month with a bad ankle. "He’s a natural for the position and the team is blessed to have two extraordinary keepers."
Wright said the new back line, consisting of Liam Gillis, Zach Montano, Zach Mazur and Boltin Kehrt, is working out great and should be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses. He predicts a season of success for the Wildcats.
"I’m not as confident as I was going into last year, but I feel very good about this team because their work ethic is amazing. Our four captains - Ethan, Grayson, Alltop and Montano - right now are providing some of the best leadership in the last four years in Richmond Hill which is especially important when you look at the number of younger players we have this season. I feel we’re going to start winning games. With so many young players, this year reminds me of my first year here at Richmond Hill. That too was a transitional year and we ended up making it the second round of the state playoffs."