Prep soccer: Salisbury seeks a playoff breakthrough
By Mike London
SALISBURY ó Salisburyís boys soccer program is a testament to both achievement and frustration.
Counting their glowing 17-1-1 mark this season, the Hornets are 206-31-17 since 2001.
Toss out the ties, and Salisbury has won 87 percent of the time for an 11-season period. The achievement is obvious, so whereís the frustration?
That would be in the playoffs.
Thereís been infinitely more agony than ecstasy for SHS in the postseason. For all their CCC banners, the Hornets have yet to play in a state championship game and they represent a school where state championships happen frequently.
CCC titles are routine for the Hornets, even in a league where Central Davidson and West Davidson are worthy opponents on an annual basis.
The Hornets have been CCC champs seven years running. Theyíll be outright champs once more if they beat second-place Central Davidson (15-2-1, 9-1) at Ludwig Stadium tonight. Even if they falter, theyíll still claim a share of the crown.
New head coach Matt Parrish is ěnewî only in the broadest sense of the word. He always had major responsibilities when he stood alongside departed Tom Sexton, the architect of a model program.
ěTom was the offensive guy and I was in charge of the defense, so itís been a seamless transition,î Parrish said. ěIíve put my ideas in and tweaked things, and our style now is a little different, a little more possession-oriented. But you donít try to fix whatís not broken. In most aspects, weíve carried on what Tom did.î
Many of Salisburyís eight seniors were around for a Western final loss to Shelby in 2008 as well as for the fourth-round loss to Shelby in 2009 that ended the winningest season (23-2-1) in school history.
After that, came last seasonís stunning second-round exit when Salisbury lost to East Lincoln on PKs. That one was tough to swallow.
ěI kept a program from that East Lincoln game and I look it at it every single day,î Parrish said. ěIt definitely left a bad taste. No disrespect to East Lincoln, but thatís not a game we shouldíve lost. We had so many opportunities.î
That program reminds Parrish that any game can be decided by one lapse, and heís tried to instill a steely mental resolve in his team.
ěMy message has been to never let up on the gas pedal,î Parrish said. ěThat doesnít mean trying to beat overmatched teams 20-0. It means never letting up because you never know which play will be that one play that decides it.î
Players such as keeper Connor Miller, Kenny Bonilla, John Grant, B.J. Woods and Alex Lee seemingly have been around forever. Bonilla had two game-deciding goals in the 2008 playoff run, and he remains an offensive force.
ěWeíre talking about 80 or so games of experience with those five guys,î Parrish said.
The Hornets always have young talent to augment their senior leadership. Soph Bobby Cardelle leads the squad in goals. John Canipe and Zachary Sukkasem have made an early impact. Emmy Turcios is fast and physical.
Spencer Dixon is again the beating heart of the defense, and Parrish is confident outside backs Luke Hutton and Hanson Saryee are as swift as any tandem in the state.
ěA lot of times, itís like we have 11 coaches on the field,î Parrish said. ěIíve tried to get our people in the right spots and Iíve been able to do most of my coaching in practice. The kids deserve all the credit. Theyíve done the work.î
Salisbury tied Lake Normanís Wildcats, ranked fourth in 4A, and did it on the road.
The lone loss was at 3A SPC frontrunner Central Cabarrus, so the Hornets are still unbeaten against 2A foes and still unblemished at home.
Still, thereís no crazy pressure to go the distance. Carrboro (18-1-2), nemesis Shelby (18-1) and East Duplin (19-1) are ranked ahead of the Hornets in 2A, partly because of Salisburyís snake-bit history.
ěTo debunk the myth that Salisbury canít do it in the playoffs is a primary goal,î Parrish said.
ěFair or not, the playoffs are what your team is determined by. You can go 20-0 in the regular season, but itís still that playoff loss that people will remember.î