High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Soccer

Top 10 Stories of the Year in North Carolina

December, 29, 2011
The year 2011 is winding down to a close and what a year it's been in sports. Here are the top 10 stories from the North Carolina high school sports scene:

10. Tragedy Strikes Twice
Unfortunately, sports is sometimes not about victory and triumph but loss and tragedy. So was the case in August, when Williams High QB Harry Cohen died from an accidental overdose just days after leading his team to victory, and in December, when Alleghany wrestler Luke Hampton was paralyzed during a match just days after earning the state's top ranking in Class 1A at 182 pounds. Our prayers go out to both families.

9. Stuntin' Like My Daddy
You could say it's in the genes and then some when it comes to Dillon Maples. A year after breaking his father's school record of 17 strikeouts by one, the Pinecrest senior tied his own mark with 18 Ks. Maples finished the year with a 9-1 record, 143 strikeouts and a 0.92 ERA. Similiar to his father, Tim, who was picked by the Orioles, the Cubs selected Dillon in the 14th round of the MLB Draft. Maples initially enrolled at UNC, but in August, he agreed to a deal with the Cubs that included a $2.5 million signing bonus.

8. Cardinal Rule
Cardinal Gibbons dethroned two-time defending Class 3A champ Chapel Hill this past fall by the smallest of margins — one point. The Crusaders placed five runners in the top 20, including individual champion Steven Phillips, who clocked a time of 15:49.

7. Last Hope
Midway through the season, Green Hope soccer coach Andrew Chadwick surprised his team by announcing he would retire at the end of the year. The Falcons made sure their coach ended on a good note by winning the Class 4A title in a 2-1 overtime thriller against Myers Park.

6. West is the Best
In 2010, West Charlotte blew a lead and lost in the state semifinals. They made sure the same didn’t happen last year, breezing through the state tourney before letting the one they call Big Baby take over in the title game. Kennedy Meeks recorded 12 points, nine blocks and 19 rebounds (the fourth most in championship game history) to earn MVP honors.

5. New Faces Reach New Places
This past football season saw some unusual suspects claim state crowns. Scotland won its first ever state title by going 15-0 en route to the Class 4A crown and Havelock dethroned three-time defending Class 3A champ West Rowan.

4. Golden Graham
Thomas Graham painted the picture of dominance during his prep career, winning four straight NCISSA 3A state cross country championships. Graham also held his own on the national scene by copping ninth at the Foot Locker Nationals and 15th in the final DyeStat rankings.

3. A Page Out of History
Despite entering the postseason undefeated and as a top seed, Greensboro Page had quite the tough road to the Class 4AA title. That didn't faze the Pirates, who knocked off two-time defending champ Butler and season-long favorite Mallard Creek in consecutive weeks before beating Garner in the 4AA championship.

2. Purvis Picks 'Pack
Earlier this year, Rodney Purvis was headed to Louisville, which rested in the same Blue Grass State that another top NC recruit by the name of John Wall played his college ball. But an assistant coaching shake-up led Purvis to decommit in May. After months of thinking, the Upper Room Christian senior guard decided to stay in his backyard and play for N.C. State.

1. Top Dog
On Dec. 6, Keith Marshall went to sleep a Clemson Tiger but woke up a Georgia Bulldog. After narrowing his choices, the speedy Millbrook tailback and the nation's sixth-best recruit decided on his childhood favorite team of Georgia, where he plans to enroll in January.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter@brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Green Hope, Myers Park to face off in Class 4A soccer final

November, 17, 2011
Three of the last four Class 4A state title games have featured Myers Park, but just as was the case last year when the Mustangs faced Jordan, they enter this weekend's final as the high-scoring underdog.

Myers Park has averaged more than four goals per game this year, thanks to Erick Suarez (35 goals, 15 assists) and Hussein Ali (25 goals, seven assists), and after beating Roberson 1-0 on Wednesday, has outscored its last seven opponents by a count of 39-5. The five goals surrendered is just as impressive as the 39 when you consider the Mustangs graduated its entire defense from last year's state runner-up squad.

Still, the push to win their first title since 2008 will be far from easy, as Green Hope stands in the way. The Falcons are the state's top-ranked and nation's seventh-best squad in the POWERADE FAB 50 after downing defending champ Jordan earlier this season, rallying for a 4-3 win against Fuquay-Varina in the quarterfinals and downing Pinecrest 4-0 behind Will Moore's two goals in the semis.

Green Hope has been downright impressive this year, outscoring opponents 111-24 while riding the motivation of winning the state title in coach Andrew Chadwick's final season. Along with Moore, the Falcons possess a solid playmaker in Ryan Thompson (12 goals, 17 assists) and Drew Altman (team-high 17 goals). Myers Park's defense will certainly be tested, but so will Green Hope's, as the Mustangs known for racking up shots on goal until they find the back of the net.

In Class 3A action, defending state champ Cardinal Gibbons is also headed back to the final for a bout with Charlotte Catholic. Between the Crusaders' title last year and the Cougars four crowns in the last decade, tradition is rich between these two. The Cougars boast a scoring machine in Roland Minogue, but the Crusaders have been lighting up the scoreboard all season in hopes of a repeat title.

State championship matches for all four classes will take place this Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Green Hope rises, South Meck falls in new POWERADE soccer rankings

September, 13, 2011
Don't be fooled by its name — Green Hope has given very little hope to its opponents this season.

The Falcons breezed through their non-conference schedule, compiling a 6-0 record, consecutively downing power programs Jordan and Sanderson and outscoring opponents by a count of 24-4. Midfielders Tyler Carroll (team-high six goals) and Ryan Thompson (five assists) have anchored this fast start, pushing the Falcons up to No. 16 in the new POWERADE FAB 50 rankings.

South Mecklenburg made its debut in the national list this week, earning the No. 44 spot. But this accomplishment could be short-lived for the Sabres. Ben Berdon's hat trick helped rival Providence pull off the 4-0 upset against South Meck on Monday, sending the Sabres to their first loss on the season.

Find out which three other local programs made the rankings by clicking here.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Myers Park, Hough play to a draw

August, 31, 2011
Myers Park and Hough, two of the state's top soccer squads, met on Tuesday, but the outcome did little to settle the question of who's best.

The teams played to a 1-1 draw in a contest filled with missed opportunities, according to this Charlotte Observer article. Myers Park struck first, with All-State senior forward Erick Suarez assisting on a David Swain goal. But Hough tied the score soon after on a Tanner Roberts shot in the box.

The Mustangs (2-0-1) had a great chance to pull away with 11 minutes left, when Suarez drew a penalty in the box. But his ensuing shot flew high and off the crossbar, leaving the No. 13-ranked school in the POWERADE FAB 50 knotted up with Hough (2-1-1).

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Got Game: Hussein Ali

August, 30, 2011
Name: Hussein Ali
School: Myers Park
Sport: Soccer

Never mind a hat trick. Ali would have needed two caps to hold the amount of goals he piled up during Myers Park's face-off with Charlotte Latin this past Saturday.

With all the attention on scoring machine Erick Suarez, Ali capitalized, netting all five goals for the Mustangs in their 5-1 victory against the private school power. The victory pushed Myers Park up five spots to No. 13 in the latest POWERADE FAB 50 soccer rankings.

(Oh, and for those curious about the outcome of those matches I previewed last Friday, Greensboro Day School beat Greensboro Page, 3-0, moving the Tigers to No. 26 in the national rankings and giving Page more losses — two – than the past two years combined. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irene postponed the matchup between T.C. Roberson and Green Hope.)

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

North Carolina soccer preview

August, 24, 2011
The rare East Coast earthquake happened Tuesday, but as we've chronicled here and here, the rumblings throughout North Carolina high school sports have been happening since last Friday.

The local soccer scene was no exception, as Green Hope blanked defending state champ Jordan, 5-0, last week. Ryan Thompson tallied one goal and two assists while Drew Altman netted two scores to pace Green Hope. The win avenges last year's loss to Jordan, which went 25-0, but it does little to determine who is this year's favorite. Remember, two years ago, Jordan beat Green Hope 4-1, only to see Green Hope hand Jordan its lone loss a few months later in the playoff semifinals.

Such storylines should make the futbol season an exciting one. Two local teams enter the season ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50, with the Erick Suarez-led Myers Park checking in at No. 18. Want more soccer news? Our resident aficionado Sheldon Shealer has got you covered with an in-depth region preview as well as state preseason rankings.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter (@brandoncparker) or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.