Eagles, Chargers draw top-8 seeds
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 19, 2007 1:48 PM
In three previous trips to the postseason, Wayne Christian has endured opening-round losses against Class 1-A Coastal Plains Independent Conference programs.
Have the Eagles bucked the trend?
This year's 2-0-1 ledger against CPIC members is solid proof the Eagles are becoming more competitive. But has Wayne Christian improved enough to boost its level of play in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association playoffs?
The Eagles will learn the answer today. Seeded seventh in the 12-team field, Wayne Christian entertains Kerr-Vance in opening-round play at 4:30 p.m.
"(Success vs. the CPIC) is a good indicator because we've finally stepped it up a notch, and I think we can hang with them," said second-year Eagles coach Daryl Anderson. "I'm glad we got the seeding we did because we don't have to travel a lot. I think whoever gets into the final eight can win it all.
"It will depend on how the ball bounces that particular day."
Meanwhile, 2006 NCISAA runner-up Wayne Country Day starts tournament play at home Saturday. The sixth-seeded Chargers, directed by first-year head coach Baron Heinemann, play host to 11th-seeded Cape Fear Christian. Game time is 4 p.m.
"The seeding, to be honest, I was a little shocked -- on principal," said Heinemann. "I was definitely not expecting it especially when the top 5 (poll) came out Monday with Wayne Christian and Statesville tied for fifth.
"Plus, United Faith had a little better record than we did, so I was anticipating an eight seed."
United Faith, instead, drew the No. 8 seed as an at-large team and plays host to ninth-seeded Faith Christian-Rocky Mount. The other first-round game pits at-large selections Northwood Temple at Statesville Christian. Quarterfinal-round play is Tuesday with the semifinals and finals scheduled Oct. 26-27 at the Gillette Soccer Complex in Wilson.
Defending state champion Trinity Academy of Raleigh is the No. 1 seed and automatic qualifier from the Carolina Christian Conference.
Greenfield, the nine-time defending CPIC regular-season champion, is the No. 2 seed. Gaston Day, the Southern Piedmont Athletic Association champion, is seeded third. Ridgecroft, one of five CPIC members to receive bids, is the No. 4 seed.
Wayne Christian (12-5-1) is making its second straight postseason appearance and fourth overall since 2002. The Eagles are 0-3 all-time with all three losses occurring against the CPIC.
It's the final home game for eight seniors -- goalkeeper Eric Williams, Brian Alexander, Hayden Gardner, Matt Rouse, Matt Davis, Jeremy Jefferson, Shea Glaesman and Andrew Radford.
"You're going to see that group play with a lot of heart," said Anderson. "They don't want to lose their last game (at home). If they can win their first-ever playoff game, that would speak well for their senior class. And it would raise the bar for future soccer teams at Wayne Christian."
Kerr-Vance (9-11-1) is making its second straight playoff appearance and fifth overall since 2000. The Spartans have advanced past the first round on four occasions and emerged the state runners-up to Greenfield in 2000.
"I haven't seen them play," said Anderson. "All I've been told is they play defensive game and that's what we play."
The Eagles have been involved in numerous one-goal contests this season, and been victimized by late scores on a few occasions. They've been working on transition from defense to offense and Anderson hopes his team can control the midfield.
"I'm hoping we can step up our offense a little bit tomorrow," said Anderson. "I want our midfielders to make the transition quicker and put a lot of pressure on their defense ... pound it in there and take shots. If we can cross it into the six (yard area), maybe we can get some in the net."
While Wayne Christian looks to generate offense, Wayne Country Day (9-6-2) has gone through some lineup challenges. Injuries and off-the-field disciplinary actions have depleted the roster, and now Heinemann must replace veteran keeper Ryan Ford in goal.
A standout baseball player, Ford is making an official visit to Amherst (Mass.) College this weekend. Senior co-captain David Wilson will handle the keeping duties in Ford's absence.
"I've had my eye on David all year from preseason to now, and as far as keepers go, he's very good," said Heinemann. "He's got natural ability, is a smart player and reads the angles well."
Wilson, however, leaves a significant void on offense. He's been responsible for 69 percent of the Chargers' offense with a 44-percent rate on goals scored and 10 assists.
"To say Davis has been valuable is a gross understatement," said Heinemann. "I am worried about our potential in scoring. We replaced a striker (earlier this week) with an eighth-grader (Hil Tanner).
"We still have to buckle down and play a serious match Saturday. We're going to have to play a phenomenal game at midfield to keep Cape Fear from getting shots (on goal)."
Despite the roller-coaster ride Heinemann's team has experienced, he does feel like the team chemistry has improved. The Chargers finished 3-1-1 during the final two-plus weeks of regular-season play.
"We've had shining moments and not-so-glorious moments," said Heinemann. "But I believe, aside from the issues we've faced on and off the field, we have played some great soccer the past three weeks."
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