What’s in a name?: Haley Eisenbraun carried her family legacy on and off the soccer field for West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 28, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — People around Clemmons might hear or see the name Eisenbraun and it immediately conjures up soccer.  

Even though Haley Eisenbraun is a senior on the West Forsyth girls soccer team, she is much more than just a soccer player. She is a well-rounded student-athlete contemplating the next level in life. She not only plays soccer, but she is a swimmer, wrestler and violinist. 

Eisenbraun, the daughter of Scott Eisenbraun, who played soccer at Greensboro College and is the vice president of competition for the N.C. Adult Soccer Association, and Kelly Newell Eisenbraun, who played at Wake Forest from 1994-97 and coached girls soccer at Forsyth Country Day, is proud of her family lineage. 

“We (she and her fraternal twin Tyler) grew up around the field sometimes, pretty much first-born,” Haley said. “When I was about three my parents put me in soccer just to kind of see. And it was fun. I really started to fall in love with it when I was about six or seven, and that’s when I started moving out of the recreation league and into classic and started playing competitively.” 

At that young age, Haley had no idea what the last name Eisenbraun meant in the soccer community. 

“I had no idea until I was about 11 (how) pretty prominent they were,” she said. “We’d go to a soccer field, or I’d go to a game and it’s a pretty common phrase was, ‘Are you Scott’s daughter?,’ or ‘Are you Kelly’s daughter?’”

It’s hard to escape the name.  

“I’m pretty proud about it. Sometimes it’s hard, like there’s a high-expectation level there,” Haley said. “But my parents worked really hard for everything they have in soccer.” 

Jeffrey Williams, who is in his first season as head coach of the girls soccer team at West Forsyth after being the head boys coach for many years, slowly found out about the Eisenbraun name. 

“I have not known her parents for a while, just started over this past summer,” he said. “Scott informed me about some of the soccer stuff that he does. But I didn’t know much of the magnitude of it.” 

Whether it be soccer or any other sport, a family lineage is important. 

“I think it’s fantastic,” Williams said. “I’d like to have as many soccer family gurus and soccer families, prodigies or heritage or legacies or whatever you want to call it. If I had 19 of them that’d be great.” 

The family is clearly known for soccer, but Tyler Eisenbraun has gone about it in a different way. Showing that twins, be it identical or fraternal, or not always that much alike.  

“He played soccer for a little bit,” Haley said. “He never found that same passion.” 

Tyler is a senior at Atkins and instead of playing soccer he’s involved in soccer in another way. 

“He referees, and he just got junior referee of the year from North Carolina,” Haley said. 

Haley also officiates, but Tyler is on another level. 

“He does it all over the place,” she said. “We both ref. We both started out doing it through rec with 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds. And then he found a passion for it, started moving up doing older girls and boys at a higher level. And he’s going to Texas in June to do one of the regional tournaments and he just started getting his college club games.” 

Don’t get her wrong, Haley likes officiating, but she’d rather be part of a soccer team. 

“Tyler found a stronger passion for it than I did,” she said. “I like playing the game. He likes analyzing it.” 

Now, Haley has had a taste of what it’s like to play soccer for a top-notch program. She played JV her freshman season and most of her sophomore season before Scott Bilton, the former head varsity girls soccer coach, approached her about moving up to varsity before the end of her sophomore season. 

“It was one of the best moments of my life,” Haley said. “Last year, he liked to remind me of the smile I had and all that.” 

After putting in all the hard work that it takes to be a top-notch soccer player, Haley Eisenbraun has seen the fruits of her labor the past season and a half. Last season, under Bilton, West Forsyth finished 19-4-1 overall and 13-1 in the Central Piedmont 4-A. However, West Forsyth lost to South Mecklenburg 2-0 in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs. 

“I loved the girls, I loved the coaches, I loved being able to play. Our season did end pretty short in the playoff season, so that was definitely devastating for everyone,” Haley said.

She had another devastating moment last summer. Bilton announced that he was resigning. 

“I was upset knowing I had a different coach for my senior year,” Haley said. “But my mom having coached and my dad having coached, I know that if you don’t get out when you can you’re kind of stuck. And (Bilton) made the best decision for him and his family. It was just disappointing.” 

When Williams was announced as the girls coach Haley did not know much about him. 

“I knew of him from him coaching the boys,” she said. “I didn’t really know how that would transition because coaching boys and girls can be very different.” 

She didn’t find out until later that Williams coached as Bilton’s assistant for many seasons on the girls team. 

“I think that put an ease to a lot of us, like, ‘Oh, he’s coached girls before,’” Haley said.  

Playing mostly midfield for the Titans, she has to play as if her head were on a swivel. That means she needs to be able to see the entire soccer field. 

“She comes in and tactically runs her position well and helps out probably more so defensively,” Williams said. “But (against Glenn on March 20) she actually scored. It was a good goal and I was proud of her, it was a good opportunity for her.” 

Something else has helped Haley Eisenbraun on the soccer field, and vice versa. She is on the girls wrestling team at West Forsyth. 

“I fell in love with it almost immediately, after the first practice,” she said. “It was really fun. It was a great way to get out a lot of your frustrations and anger and everything.” 

Led by Tony Hairston, the girls wrestling coach for the past season, it was a new adventure for her. 

“We had pretty much an entirely new coaching staff this year and so that called for its own change there,” Haley said. “But I still had the same passion and love for it.” 

She improved throughout the season, but there was one bump in the road at the end of the season. Wrestling mostly at 165 pounds for most of the season, she dropped to the 152-pound class. 

“I made it to regionals this year,” Haley said. “But then I got concussed in the first round. It ended that season early.” 

Williams can see how competing in other sports helps with playing soccer. 

“I’m for other players playing other sports,” he said. “I think it makes them better individually at that sport and doesn’t hurt them as much and doesn’t put them as much in a situation where they could sustain some injuries.” 

Although she didn’t compete on the swim team at West Forsyth, she is a children’s swimming coach at Jonestown Swim and Tennis Club in Winston-Salem.  

“I love it. I love all the kids there and a lot of the adults,” Haley said. “And the kids have taken a strong liking to me because I’m their coach. It’s just really fun. I enjoy being there all the time.” 

She also plays violin in concerts at school. 

“It’s very stress-relieving,” Haley said. “I’m in my high school’s orchestra and that’s always fun.” 

And as if Haley didn’t have enough going on she is a sportswriter for The Zephyr, the student newspaper at West Forsyth.  

“I took journalism last year,” she said. “And my teacher was like, ‘Oh, you should look at newspaper for your senior year.’ 

“And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take a look.’ I signed up for the class and the first day of school, that first week, we had to pick which staff we wanted to write for, whether we wanted news, features, opinion, or sports.” 

Like always, Haley saw an opening. 

“There were no female sportswriters,” she said. “It was all guys and that just didn’t sit really well with me. I just joined so they could at least get a different perspective on sports.” 

That different perspective was evident earlier this season after the West Forsyth girls soccer team traveled to Wilson to play Apex and Wake Forest Heritage. The girls picked what they now call their team mascot. 

“We have a fish now,” Haley said. “We got a team fish when we were in Wilson.” 

They bought a beta fish at PetSmart in Wilson and named it Dumbo. It’s currently at Haley’s house, but it will eventually rotate to other players. 

“It definitely bonded them, but I think they’ve still kept the fish at home because they educated me with the water and the fish bowl,” Williams said. 

Haley, through all that she does, both at school and elsewhere, knows what it means to be part of a program as successful as the West Forsyth girls soccer program has been. 

“I think it’s pretty incredible to be part of this team and all the success that precedes us,” she said. “We’re looking at continuing that this year, hopefully making it further in playoffs. We do have a state championship in 2017. I think it’d be really great to kind of relive that legacy.” 

West Forsyth, as of Tuesday afternoon, is 5-2-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference after defeating rival Reagan 4-2 this past Monday night. The last scheduled game is May 8 at home against East Forsyth. That could be a tearful senior night for her. 

“In life, just being able to pivot between different groups or different jobs or different goals, and Haley just magnifies that,” Williams said. “And how she can succeed in many areas in her life and be a positive influence on different areas of her life.” 

The next thing is college. She hasn’t stated firmly, but she wants to play soccer at Salem College. That would even more cement the family legacy in a sport they love so much. 

“I have (thought about it),” Haley said. “Not many people have the same last name we do. When someone sees it they’re kind of like, ‘Oh, wait, is so and so your mom or…?’ ”