Prep Soccer: Top-seeded Hornets ready for playoff run
SALISBURY — Everyone knows that in odd years, Salisbury soccer gets even better.
2A state champions in 2011 and 2013, coach Matt Parrish believes the Hornets (21-0-2) have the right stuff for another odd-year run.
Salisbury has won 19 straight matches since back-to-back ties with Trinity and Mooresville in the heat of August.
The Hornets have an elite scorer in Landon Goodman (102 career goals) and an All-State defensive anchor in Cristian Uribe. Parrish has 10 seniors, and that means a lot of experience at a lot of places.
Salisbury was seeded No. 1 in the 2A West when the NCHSAA released brackets on Monday. The Hornets are scheduled to host No. 32 East Lincoln (6-13-4) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“That No. 1 seed was the culmination of four months of work,” Parrish said. “We’ve put ourselves in good position. We’ve got a lot of battle-tested guys and we’ve got all the experience you could ask for. We’ve also had our greatest success in odd years.”
Veterans Uribe, Reilly Gokey and dynamic midfielder Joshua Lynch played substantial minutes on the 2013 championship team. When Uribe was hurt in the championship game, it was Lynch that replaced him.
“We’ve had a sophomore-senior-sophomore-senior dynamic in recent years,” Parrish said. “We’ve had big classes two years apart. We’ve had sophomores who were pushed in practice by seniors, were forced to get better to compete with them, and now they play at a high level. We’ve been fortunate to have so many good players in the program, and we’ve been super-fortunate to have kids who stayed committed to this program even when they weren’t starters.”
Goodman is a perfect example of commitment, work ethic and patience. He was a sophomore backup on the 2013 team that featured high-scoring senior forwards Bobby Cardelle and Emmy Turcios.
Goodman waited his turn and emerged as Salisbury’s leading scorer as a junior. He’s been even better as a senior.
“Landon has scored those 102 goals in the equivalent of two-and-a-quarter seasons,” Parrish said. “And his stats weren’t padded when we played against weaker opponents. He scored when we needed goals. On several occasions, he scored all our goals.”
As the 2A West’s No. 5 seed a year ago, the Hornets reached the third round. They won twice at home before losing on the road at No. 4 seed Forbush.
Playing at home is an enormous advantage. The Hornets, if they can extend their winning streak, could play five home games this time, including the regional final.
Parrish is 110-10-4 in his five seasons as head coach of the Salisbury boys. Part of the reason for his success is never taking anything for granted, and he praised first-round opponent East Lincoln like he’s preparing to welcome Manchester United to Ludwig Stadium.
East Lincoln finished eighth in an eight-team league, but there were extenuating circumstances. East Lincoln plays in a stout conference with schools such as defending 2A champ Newton-Conover, Bunker Hill and West Caldwell.
“East Lincoln plays in a murderous league, and they had a lot of injuries, but now they’re getting healthier, and they have a legitimate stud player (senior Brett Shanklin),” Parrish said. “We’ve had very tough battles with Coach (Jason) Dragoon in the playoffs, and he knows Salisbury and he knows what we like to do. I’m very glad we’re the No. 1 seed, but there are a lot of teams I would rather have seen at No. 32. This will be a difficult first-round game.”
Salisbury has battled through its own injuries, although Parrish is optimistic Andrew Kalogeromitros (Salisbury’s No. 2 scorer in 2014) and Melvin Bonilla will be reasonably close to 100 percent for the playoffs.
“Opponents are going to focus on stopping Landon,” Parrish said. “Andrew and Melvin are very important guys as far as taking some of the pressure off Landon. We played Thomasville with those two and won 7-1. When we played Thomasville without them, we won 2-1.”
The weather was lousy on Monday. The Hornets did manage to practice. Then Parrish headed to the meeting in Lexington that determined all-region players.
He expects his team to play Wednesday as scheduled.
“If the ball will roll, we’ll play,” Parrish said.
Parrish expects his veterans to be focused and energized. The plan is to still be competing on Nov. 21 when the 2A championship is decided at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Complex.
“Winning the Central Carolina Conference was nice, but that’s not what this team was playing for,” Parrish said. “Since the first day of practice, we’ve had a higher goal.”
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