West Forsyth sees strong season for fall sports

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 18, 2021

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By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

It’s mid-November and fall sports at West Forsyth have concluded.

With the end of each season, it’s always a good time to analyze each team to see how it fared throughout the past three months.

The boys soccer team had another successful season with Coach Jeffrey Williams. The Titans finished 20-4 overall and won the Central Piedmont 4-A with a 13-1 record.

It was also strange because there was no fall season last year because of COVID-19. The team didn’t even finish its season for the 2020-21 season until March 16, completing with a 3-1 home loss to Raleigh Athens Drive in the first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs. The Titans finished the spring season with a 11-3-1 overall record and 9-0-1 in the Central Piedmont 4-A, with their only blemish coming against Mount Tabor.

“We had a lot of seniors graduate and knew a lot of pieces that we’d have. We had a lot of holes to fill,” Williams said. “So, this year’s team came in and, there was a lot of interchangeable parts we found out, but it was one of the best groups of kids that I’ve been a part of. They just sort of bonded together and did what was needed to succeed.”

West Forsyth, which had seven seniors, finished one game ahead of Mount Tabor for the top seed in the conference.

“I wouldn’t say they (West Forsyth players) brought it every game. There was a couple times where we might not have been as focused to start the game as we should have, but they were able to piece it together,” Williams said. “Every team’s really solid (in the conference). So, I don’t know if I would have predicted that the beginning of the year.”

Part of the lack of focus was that the Titans outscored their opponents 61-22, giving up less than one goal per game.

“It’s just like most of us — we like to do enough to get by,” Williams said. “…It happens to even the best teams in the world in any competition.”

Winning is something the Titans have done since Williams became coach.

“I thought we were going to be good. I didn’t know we were going to be that good,” he said.

Just like in March, West Forsyth lost at home in the playoffs, losing 4-2 to South Mecklenburg in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs after defeating Charlotte Olympic 2-0 at home in the first round, In fact, West Forsyth has finished the last three seasons at home in the playoffs, losing in penalty kicks to Charlotte Providence in 2019.

“That’s three seasons in a row that we finished at home,” Williams said. “Sort of just looking back at the last three years — two years we lost in penalty kicks to Providence at home, and last year we lost to Athens Drive with several injuries and such,” Willaims said. “But this year, I knew that South Meck was a good team.

“There’s solid play where they push the attack, which is something we have to account for all the time, I knew we were probably going to have our best chances in the counter attack. We’re up 1-0 at halftime, and then midway through the second half, we’re up 2-1. I thought we were going to see it out.”

Despite the loss in the second round, the Titans have a solid foundation for next season.

“I think we definitely have a strong group coming back,” Williams said.

The West Forsyth volleyball team also had a very successful season, finishing 21-7 overall and in a tie for first in the Central Piedmont 4-A with Davie County at 12-2.

After a 3-0 home loss to Davie County, West Forsyth reeled off seven straight wins, including three in the conference tournament, defeating East Forsyth 3-0 in the championship. West Forsyth also knocked off Lake Norman 3-0 in the first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A tournament.

“Going into this season, there wasn’t too much of an expectation of what it was going to be like because COVID last year changed everything,” Coach Lauren Gillon said. “So, we still didn’t really know if we were going to play with masks. We didn’t know when that would change, and if anything would change. But there was a little more normalcy, like starting in August like all the other traditional seasons.”

The season last year didn’t start until November and concluded in December for West Forsyth after it finished 5-5.

“I think just not having much of an expectation of how we were going to perform, or what that was going to be like, just take in each practice and each game for what it was,” Gillon said. “And working as hard as we could for each day. I think that led to some of the success that we had throughout the season.”

The Titans were led by three seniors — Clara LaRue, Emma Cate Burhans and Charlotte Craver. LaRue has signed to play in college at Elon.

“The past three seasons, including this season, we have really been working on just like staying together as a unit and as a team,” Gillon said. “And I think we’re starting to get a solid foundation of that. So, even with seniors graduating or leaving, whether it’s six or seven, I just think the unity of the girls and making sure that everybody has the same mentality…is what’s kind of promising even after losing senior leadership and stuff.

One road block this past season was its struggles against Davie County. In two matches against Davie, West Forsyth didn’t win a set, and since the two teams tied for first place, and Davie won both matches, Davie County received the No. 1 seed in the NCHSAA Class 4-A tournament.

“They play a little bit faster offense,” Gillon said of Davie. “So, they push the ball a little bit quicker. They’re really the only team in our conference that does that. We’re able to spread the ball a little bit more, I think, than they are. We have very solid middle hitters, so just running a faster tempo in the middle, I think, really just kind of like caught us on our heels.”

Despite losing two games to Davie, West Forsyth won seven straight games and had to travel to Greensboro for a second-round game with Western Guilford.

The Titans led 2-1 after winning the first set 25-21, losing the second set 25-19, and winning the third set 25-21. However, the Hornets came back and won the last two sets — 25-21 and 15-13 — end the Titans’ season.

“I only had 10 (players) on the roster for varsity,” Gillon said. “So, we were tired. We had some fighting off colds. I have a very high academic team. I have four National Honor Society kids. They’re very high-level academic kids. I think just the weight of the school year and volleyball, they were just tired.”

The boys and girls cross-country teams, coached by Nathan Newsome, had a strong run.

The girls finished runner-up in the Central Piedmont 4-A behind Mount Tabor, and Reagan was third.

Although the Titans didn’t qualify the whole team in the girls NCHSAA Cross-Country championships held Nov. 7 at Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville, after finishing sixth in the regional the week before at Ivey Redmon, they still had a strong performance from sophomore Lillian Douglass in the Class 4-A state championship.

Douglass was the Titans’ top girls runner in the state-championship 3.1-mile run after finishing 32nd and 19:07.44, well behind state-champion Sarah Mitchell of Apex, who finished 17:26.96.

“I wish we would’ve done better,” Newsome said. “I’m excited about (indoor) track. That’s kind of how it goes with that.”

According to Newsome, three of the Titans’ top seven runners in the regional were seniors — Janie Peterson, Taylar White, and Newsome’s daughter, Blair.

“We had several more pretty good runners, so I feel good about the girls doing well next year,” Newsome said. “So, we’re optimistic. Our region doesn’t get any easier.”

As for the boys cross-country team, the Titans finished fourth behind Mount Tabor, which won the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship, Reagan and Davie County.

The Titans’ boys also didn’t qualify a full team to the state championship. However, junior Wesley Haggstrom led the Titans with a run of 16:40.61, good for 59th place at the state championship at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex. Junior Brandt Doty finished 72nd at 16:47.07.

“From a team standpoint, we’re really young,” Newsome said. “We have everybody back. I think we had one freshman that ran in the top seven, several sophomores, a lot of juniors, no seniors.”

The girls golf team had a successful season, but they have the unenviable task of competing in the same conference with two-time defending state NCHSAA Class 4-A champion Reagan.

There was no fall season last year because of COVID-19, but they played in the spring and Reagan won the team and individual state championship. They played the fall season and Reagan also won that team and individual state championship.

The two-day state championship was held Oct. 25-26 at Pinehurst No. 5. West Forsyth finished seventh at 51 over, 49 shots behind Reagan. West Forsyth finished runner-up behind Reagan in the regional.

“It was outstanding,” Coach Bill Walwik said of the season. “We set a lot of school records. We went to the states. Finished seventh. So, we play in Reagan’s conference, so our goals are different. This is the first time we’ve ever qualified as a team. West has never qualified as a team for the state championship. We’ve had individuals over the years, of course. We came in second in the regional. That’s the first time that’s ever happened.”

Junior Mary-Paige King led West Forsyth in the state championship in 20th place at 12-over 156, 16 shots behind winner Morgan Ketchum of Reagan. Also, for West Forsyth, sophomore Paige Sidney was tied for 30th at 18-over 162, and freshman Sadie Meacham tied for 42nd and 21-over 165.

“I think certainly the goals that we’ve established here have been met,” Walwik said. “One of them was qualifying a team for the state championship. Now that we’ve qualified, let’s see if we can qualify in the top three or so.”

Walwik and the team know that it’s going to be hard to beat Reagan for the conference, regional and state championship.

“Fortunately, golf’s such an individual sport for the most part,” Walwik said. “…So, you basically set goals. ‘Look, this out of reach even though we talk about it. What’s our goal? Make sure we come in second.'”

The West Forsyth girls tennis team finished 8-6 overall and 8-4 in the Central Piedmont 4-A.

“I thought we had a really good season,” Coach Shana Krenz of West Forsyth said. “We had a smaller team this year we just had. And I got a couple freshmen. And everybody got a chance to play. So, I thought that was really, really good.”

West Forsyth finished tied for second in the conference with Reagan, but Davie County won with an overall record of 14-1 and 12-0 in the conference.

The girls tennis team also didn’t play last fall because of COVID-19, and teams from around the state played in the spring. Wes Forsyth finished the spring season 9-2.

“The one thing that I thought was interesting was moving our last season that was played in the spring,” Krenz said. “Our No. 2 (singles) and our No. 3 players (graduated). We bumped up some people that maybe have been playing maybe 5 and 6, they were bumped up to playing 3 (and 4).

“So, that was very interesting to see how some of the players stepped it up. There was just a short, few months left between playing in the spring and playing in the fall. I had some players, where I thought, ‘How are they going to do now that they’re playing up.”

Abigail Nix is the only senior on the roster, so the future looks bright for the Titans next season.

“I think you can always look forward to more players coming up,” Krenz said. “Like I said, that’s just never a given. I think young people right now are pulled in so many different directions. If they’re on a traveling team, the traveling team doesn’t want them to play a school sport. And I find that a lot of the girls that are working and taking lessons all the time, or looking toward college or playing in tournaments, they get a lot of pressure to just play tournaments. And they kind of skip playing high school sports.

“And I think that is very, very unfortunate. You only get one chance to go through high school.”