Fall sports start competition next week

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2021

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

It’s just mid-August, but fall sports teams at West Forsyth and across the state will start next week competing in regular-season games, matches and meets in fall sports.

The Titans’ football team will start next Friday at home against Asheville Reynolds, but earlier in the week, teams in boys soccer, volleyball, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country, and girls golf will start its regular seasons. But these teams won’t just be playing any of these sports without any preparation. They’ve been working out all summer, and fall practices started Aug. 2.

The West Forsyth boys soccer team will defend its Central Piedmont 4-A title after finishing 11-3-1 overall and 9-0-1 in the conference.

The Titans lost six seniors from that competed earlier this year because of COVID-19, including Jesse Guzman, who played in last month’s East-West All-Star Game, as well as Jack Watkins, who moved to Wilmington. But that doesn’t mean the Titans are bereft of talent.

The Titans have 13 returning players, including senior midfielder/forward Daniel Bustos, senior defensive midfielder Walker Paschold, and junior attacker Alex Flores. Paschold’s younger brother, Haegan, is a freshman and will be playing outside forward.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces, a lot of younger kids, especially with varsity,” Coach Jeffrey Williams of West Forsyth said. “Trying to get them up to speed. Trying to get them up speed is going to be a little more time this year.”

West Forsyth finished well ahead of East Forsyth (7-6-2, 6-3-1 Central Piedmont 4-A) and Reynolds (8-5, 6-4), which finished runner-up in the 2019 NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship, in this past season’s conference standings. In addition to those teams, as well as Reagan, Glenn and Davie County, two more teams from Forsyth County will join the conference this season. Mount Tabor and Parkland, which previously were in the Piedmont Triad 3-A, are back in the conference after four years.

“I think we can win it,” Williams said of the possibility of winning the conference championship. “I think it’s how well our team progresses and how well they accept their roles on the team…I definitely think we can win it.”

West Forsyth finished last season on March 16 after losing to Raleigh Athens Drive in the first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs. So, in a sense, the Titans had an extended spring practice.

“That was good. Well, the guys played club right after that in March, April and May. And this summer, they played some 77 games at Fusion,” Williams said. “And so, I made them basically take two or three weeks off so it wouldn’t be so taxing. You have to take two or three weeks off no matter what sport.

“And so they haven’t played all the time, but I think they’ve had a decent break. It’s thrown them off a little bit from I guess from normal summer workouts With a lot of the restrictions being lifted, people going on vacation more, it’s just sort of an odd time, I think.”

Just like with any other team, the West Forsyth volleyball team had its previous season altered. The Titans started their regular season last year on Nov. 17 and finished their 10-game season on Dec. 17.

The Titans played all conference games last year and finished 5-5. missing the playoffs.

West Forsyth begins volleyball practice.

“I think we’re in a really good spot,” Coach Lauren Gillon said. “I think the energy is really good, and it has been really good in the gym. I think the girls are just really excited to have a normal start to a season compared to last season where we had to wait and we missed a lot of practice, and everything was super unconventional. So, the energy’s been really good in the gym.”

The players and coaches are wearing masks, much like last season, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“For the team last year, like the first practice we had with a mask, it was one of the weirdest practices I think for all of us because in volleyball and most sports so much communication is involved. And there’s so many changing factors on every single ball that goes over the net,” Gillon said. “So when that communication is hindered I think it caused a lot of shutdown and breakdown of what was going on.”

After nearly a year of their having to wear masks, the team has been more acclimated.

“We’ve had more time to get used to everything,” Gillon said. “I think they’re just more used to it, really.”

The Titans lost seven seniors, which is the most they’ve lost since 2014, Gillon said.

“It’s not ideal, but we’ve had a ton of kids that just kept developing throughout the program,” she said. “We added a couple along the way…I think experience just speaks for itself really in any sport. The longer you play the more you know.”

Despite losing seven seniors after last season West Forsyth has three seniors — Clara LaRue, Emma Cate Burhans and Charlotte Craver.

“We just have three really well-rounded seniors that have strengths in different areas, which I think will be really helpful.” Gillon said.

West Forsyth finished fourth last season in the six-team Central Piedmont 4-A. Reagan won the conference after finishing 16-1 overall and 10-0 in the conference, and Davie County was 9-4 overall and 7-2 in the conference. Mount Tabor and Parkland will also join the conference this season. West Forsyth opens its season on Aug. 19 at North Surry.

“After losing seven seniors I feel like, for me, I’m kind of taking it day-by-day, practice by practice,” Gillon said. “I have a strong group of athletes, I have a strong group of volleyball players. And I always have confidence in the group that I have. I think it’s kind of hard to say, like after losing seven seniors it’s kind of hard of hard to say, this is where we’ll be. We have a whole new group.”

If it feels like just yesterday since girls tennis finished. Girls tennis was pushed back to late in the school year this past year, and the West Forsyth girls finished its regular season on June 3. And for some players, the season didn’t finish until late June.

The Titans finished 9-2 overall and 8-1 in the Central Piedmont 4-A, splitting their season series with Reynolds. Maria Nikas lost in the first round of singles in the NCHSAA Class 4-A tournament at Millbrook Exhange Park in Raleigh, and the doubles team of Marion Idulsa and Vivian Do lost in the first round of the doubles championship. Coach Shana Krenz lost Nikas, who played No. 2 singles, and Idulsa, who played No. 3 singles, to graduation. However, sophomore Samantha McEachran, who played No. 1 singles, and junior Vivian Do, who played No. 4 singles, are back. In addition, the Titans have freshmen Delilah Caldwell and Sophia Thomay.

Front row: Capt. Abigail Nix, Savannah Gilliam. Back row: Vivian Do, Delilah Caldwell. Photo by Photo credit Shana Krenz

“Court 6 gives you the same amount of points as Court 1,” Krenz said. “That’s the team. There’s pressures on every court. You know, if you’re placing somebody on their ability on the court they should have a good and equal match with whoever they’re up against in parameters.”

Krenz said playing in the spring was a benefit.

“There was a little bit of momentum,” she said. “The downside is usually every October myself or my husband will give them a little checklist, and say, ‘OK, this what we want you to work on before next season.’

“Maybe it’s changing your serve grip, whatever. So, I didn’t have so much time for people to work on things. But the momentum and being in communication even though we haven’t had tennis practice together (during the summer) has been good.”

West Forsyth opened its regular season on Aug. 16 at Mount Airy in a nonconference match, and followed that on Aug. 17 with a home match against Greensboro Grimsley. West Forsyth is scheduled to play at Reynolds on Sept. 9 and Reynolds is scheduled to play on Oct. 4 at West Forsyth.

“I’ve only just seen our new faces for three days,” Krenz said. “But I think going forward I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress. A lot of players made a lot of progress. We had an even more abbreviated season because we were squished on the end of the guys season. So, I feel like there’s momentum going forward with yep, ‘We’ve got to do this, gotta do that.’

“And I’ve said, though, we’ve got our work cut out for us because I feel like you should never kind of sit back and think. OK, ‘Hey, we just won, we’ve got this’ kind of thing.”

Cross country at West Forsyth has always been strong, and didn’t doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon with Coach Nathan Newsome.

The West Forsyth girls finished ninth this past January in the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville. The Titans lost seniors Eliza Broce, Kendall Phillips and Bailey Reutinger to graduation, said his top eight girls runners will likely be freshman Lulu Serang, senior Blair Newsome, who’s Nathan’s daughter, senior Kelly Smith, senior Taylar White, sophomore Lily Douglass, sister and junior Tenley Douglass, senior Janie Peterson, and junior Sophie Cowart.

“I think we have a good crop of some new girls that are going to help out,” Newsome said. “And some of those that have not been those top-tiered girls now are and they’re pretty well prepared.”

Reagan won the Central Piedmont 4-A last season, but West Forsyth should be right there, along with Reagan and newcomer Mount Tabor.

“I think we can win the conference,” Newsome said. “It’ll be tough. I think with Mount Tabor being introduced, I think they bring a strong group back. And Reagan, of course, will always be good.”

Despite finishing runner-up in the conference to Reagan last season, it could be motivating factor for West Forsyth this season.

“The girls that are seniors now were freshmen the first year that we finished second in the state. And they were sophomores the second year we finished second in the state,” Newsome said. “So, they’ve seen us almost win. And then last year, was just weird every which way you could imagine.

“So, I think with some renewed normalcy I think they’re excited to compete. We’ll see how things shake out once we can kind of see how good the conference is. Rather than being just us and Reagan, now it’s going to be us, Reagan and Tabor.”

The West Forsyth boys cross-country team will be young after losing seniors Jeremy Eldredge and Jackson Nichols, who finished 15th and 19th respectively in January’s NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship. West Forsyth finished sixth in the state championship with 118 points, 15 behind state-champion Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons.

However, the Titans return juniors Brandt Doty and Wesley Haggstrom. They also have senior Kadin Martin, senior Dyllan McPherson, junior Connor Haldeman, junior Owen Newsome, who is Nathan’s nephew, junior Wyatt Stephens, and sophomore Ryan MacReynolds.

“That’s kind of where of where we’re at now,” Nathan Newsome said. “Brandt and Wesley were really strong in the region. Dyllan and Kadin also ran varsity for us last year. And the rest of those of those guys are kind of like those girls last year — they were kind of the JV-type runners. And now they’ve kind of moved up into a more important role. They’re looking pretty good.”

The boys hope to capitalize after winning last season’s Central Piedmont 4-A championship, as well as winning the regional.

“I would think that we would be expected to be rebuilding and not as good,” Newsome said. “But I think we’ll surprise a lot of people. I think we’re going to be good. Mount Tabor, I think on paper especially, looks to be the top in the group, and that’s fine. I’ll let them be the one taking the bulls-eye as far as that goes because if they don’t win with everybody that they now have on their team then that’s tough for them.”

Girls golf also starts its season with second-year Coach Bill Walwik.

Walwik said the best player for the Titans is junior Mary-Paige King, who is the daughter of head boys West Forsyth basketball coach and head boys golf Coach Kevin King. The Titans also have seniors Peyton Hiller and Kristine Perdue, sophomores Paige Sidney and MacKenzie Taylor, and freshmen Sadie Mecham and Catherine Perdue, who is Kristine’s sister.

Much like other sports, the girls NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship was held much later than normal, concluding on May 11 at Pinehurst No. 1.

“It’s great to be back to normal,” Walwik said. “We’ve got (12) matches scheduled, which is good number. Seven conference matches and five nonconference matches. We look pretty good this year.”

Unfortunately for West Forsyth, it competes in the Central Piedmont 4-A with foe Reagan, which captured both the team and individual state championship after Reagan defeated runner-up Cary Green Hope by eight shots, and Reagan’s Macy Pate won the individual championship by one shot against Wilmington Laney’s Grace Holcomb.

“Our goals are a little different,” Walwik said. “I think a good goal is to qualify three for states, which I think is doable. If we qualify three for states we can compete as a team no matter what else happens. And I think it’s a real possibility.”

West Forsyth and each of the other teams in the conference also have to be realistic with Reagan dominating the conference. The conference championship is Oct. 11, the regional is Oct. 18, and the state championship is Oct. 25-26.

“I really think we’re better than anybody else outside of Reagan,” Walwik said. “If we just play golf, which we know we can, I don’t think it’s a problem.”