Title run: West Forsyth soccer looks to seniors, defense to put together championship season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 28, 2019

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By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

Two years removed from winning the NCHSAA 4-A state championship, the West Forsyth girls’ soccer team might be ready to make another run at a title this season.

After a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals last year, Coach Scott Bilton said his team will be fueled by a stingy defense and a talented and experienced senior class that wants to return to Raleigh and play for another state title.

The Titans will feature 11 seniors, six of whom were starters for the 2017 team that finished 26-1-1 and beat Cardinal Gibbons 4-3 to win the state championship.

“It’s nice that there is a lot of familiarity,” Bilton said. “It’s the largest senior class I’ve ever had and obviously one that has had a lot of success. They are all focused on wanting to get back to Raleigh for another chance at a state championship. We were disappointed last year with our results in that we didn’t get back to the level we were hoping for, which was also mixed in with a lot of different injuries to some key players. I can see that they have come back fit and focused this season because they want to get back.”

The Titans’ defense will be one of the team’s biggest strengths. Kerry Eagleston, a four-year starter at goalie, Riley Terry, who was the MVP of the state championship game in 2017 and another four-year starter, along with seniors Riley Dorman, who scored a goal in the state championship game, and Amber Skinner and junior Cami Belin will anchor the back line.

“This group has a chance to be one of the better defensive teams we’ve ever had,” Bilton said. “It’s a great group that plays hard, and we have two or three others who are pushing for minutes at that position. My backup goalkeeper, Olivia Pratapas is also really talented and will play in college. Cat Byun is battling for minutes in the back and she just won a state championship in basketball.”

The Titans were 8-0 heading into games this week and had allowed just two goals this season.

“The first goal we allowed was to Grimsley (the team’s fifth game of the season) and honestly, we took a little offense to it,” Bilton said. “After that, they only got one more shot on us all game.”

Offensively, Bilton said that the Titans will have a “goals by committee” approach to help fill the void left by the graduation of Brooklyn Berry, who finished her career at West as the all-time scoring leader with 149 goals.

“We’re figuring out a way to replace several key members of our team from last year and obviously, Brooklyn was a big part of our success the last few years,” Bilton said. “But one player we will look to is senior Katherine Spencer, who was actually the second leading scorer in the conference last season behind Brooklyn. I just had a conversation with her about increased expectations and how she will handle them, but I know she is up for the challenge.”

Seniors Meredith Stewart and Bri Hudnall will help anchor the midfield, both of whom were also key members of the 2017 state championship team.

“Meredith has been a solid contributor for us during her career,” Bilton said. “Bri is a steady performer and their experience will be a great benefit to us.”

Five members of the team have already signed or committed to play in college: Eagleston (Appalachian State), Terry (Western Carolina), Dorman (Catawba), Stewart (Catawba), and Spencer (Belmont Abbey).

“I’m blessed with a lot of talented players this season,” Bilton said. “Last season was kind of a disappointment in that we hadn’t lost a league game in the previous eight years and then we lost to Reagan twice. That was something that definitely wasn’t comfortable for us and something that we would like to correct this season. In our league, there are no easy matchups. Every team is a quality opponent. We’ll see how we respond this season and hope we can make another run to Raleigh.”