10/22/04 — OPINION -- Charger soccer comes full circle

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OPINION -- Charger soccer comes full circle

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 22, 2004 1:57 PM

The remarkable turnaround in the Wayne Country Day boys' soccer program, which took one year to complete, has certainly surprised second-year coach Michael Taylor.

The Chargers posted two wins a year ago and followed that up with a 13-win campaign this season. They are three victories shy of tying the school record of 16 set by the 2001 squad, which lost in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A championship game to long-time nemesis Greenfield.

The tremendous leap to success can be attributed to senior leadership and resiliency. Kevin Logan has managed to keep the team focused despite losing key teammates to injuries that just might have been detrimental to other teams.

The Chargers battled through the adversity and finished 6-4 in the highly-competitive Coastal Plains Independent 1-A/2-A Conference. Their strong showing helped them earn a program-best No. 2 seed for the NCISAA playoffs, which begin today.

"I'm pretty happy about that," Taylor said. "I would never have imagined this when we started the season because of what we had done last year, and the year before that.

"The number two seed? That's a great honor."

Wayne Country Day (13-6-1) entertains either seventh-seeded Village Christian or 10th-seeded Rocky Mount Academy next Tuesday at 4 p.m. Village is the Carolina Christian Conference champion, while RMA finished fifth overall in the six-team CPIC.

Taylor's team breezed through its non-conference schedule and fashioned a 6-1-1 record. The Chargers climbed atop the CPIC with a 4-0 record, including a home win against Greenfield, which entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the state.

"That felt good about going into the (conference) regular season," Taylor said of the solid non-league effort. "Going 4-0 in the conference has never been done here at Wayne Country Day."

Then the injury bug bit -- hard.

Sam Steed, the team's top goal scorer, sustained a broken arm against Rocky Mount Academy on Oct. 5.

David Wilson went down against Ridgecroft and continues to recover from a severe ankle injury.

Keeper Ryan Ford, who has 141 saves and seven shutouts, sustained a grade-three concussion against Greenfield. Taylor isn't sure if Ford will return for the playoffs.

"I guess the team felt out of whack when all those things happened," Taylor said.

However, the Chargers worked through the misfortune and bounced back to record a win after losing each player.

Logan has shouldered most of the scoring burden and the defense has increased its intensity. The role players are producing -- not necessarily on offense, but they're doing the necessary things to keep the Chargers within striking distance each outing.

Taylor moved Reed from the midfield into goal and he's collected 19 saves in 106 minutes of play.

Wayne Country Day allowed 15 goals in 10 CPIC matches and scored 23 with a combined 10 coming against Rocky Mount and Ridgecroft.

"The guys have never gotten down," Taylor said. "They're playing with a lot of heart and have become a true team. They've worked well with each other and communicate well with each other. They've bonded together.

"We've had some great leadership from Kevin; the heart and soul of the midfield, and the heart and soul of the team. Everybody is picking up their role."

The Chargers have nearly a week to prepare for their second-round match. Taylor is thankful because it gives his team some much-needed time to heal from bumps and bruises, and gives him time to work on a game plan.

He also hopes history repeats itself.

The No. 1 and 2 seeds have played for the state championship each of the past two seasons. That means, if no upsets occur along the way, the Chargers get another crack at the Knights and a chance to snap their streak of six consecutive state titles.

"I like the odds of it," Taylor said. "(The) number two (seed) in the state is incredible and we're going to run with it."