Smoky Mountain’s soccer team will open its season Monday at Owen.
The JVs will play at 5 p.m. followed by the varsity.
The first home game will be Thursday, Aug. 22, against Chase. It will be varsity only at 5 p.m.
“We feel pretty good about the season,” Coach Stephen Brown said. “We are excited about playing games and not practicing and hopefully enjoying the fruits of our labor over the spring and summer. It’s a grind for sure. Keeping these guys locked in and motivated is really a key. I think for the most part our guys have done a good job of that.”
Senior all-conference and all-region goalkeeper Zeb Sink returns, but other than that the Mustangs lost their back line from a 16-5-3 team.
“We’ve got guys who can fill that void,” Brown said. “It’s just which guys and where we use them. We may experiment some during the non-conference games and try out different combinations of personnel back there. It’s hard to prep for that when you aren’t playing opponents.”
Senior Noah Hinton, a returning midfielder, is moving to the back line. Others in contention for playing time there include returning seniors Matthew Bullock and Cameron Macke; senior newcomer Dalton Rogers; juniors Andrew Roach, Kobe Coggins and Caleb Milkey, who are up from the JVs; and sophomore Tucker Watterson, who is also up from the JVs.
Sink will be backed up by junior Tyler Potts, who is coming up from the JVs.
While the back line is inexperienced, the midfield is the most experienced area of the squad.
“We have a lot of returning multi-year varsity members in the midfield,” Brown said.
Heading that group is senior Dawson Karup, who was all-conference last year. Other returning midfield starters are seniors Miguel Antonio-Perez and Luis Palacios. Also battling for playing time in the midfield are juniors Ryan Waliezer and Hunter Pressley, who are up from the JVs, and junior transfer Caleb Handy.
“We’re looking for a true goal scorer,” the coach said. “We’ve got a couple of guys we are hoping will step up and answer that call. At the end of the day, we have to be able to defend and be able to score.”
Senior Shawn Byfield, a part-time starter, returns at forward. Sophomore Billy Ramirez was the leading scorer for the JVs last season. Also up from the JVs is junior Brayden Stimers.
Brown is optimistic about the Mustangs’ chances in the Mountain Six Conference.
“We hope to shoot for the stars,” he said.
He noted that Hendersonville and East Henderson are always strong. He said Franklin is improved, while Brevard and Pisgah have new coaches.
The schedule is as follows:
Aug. 19 – at Owen; 21 – at Tuscola; 22 – Chase; 27 – at Tallulah Falls, Georgia; 28 – Highlands.
Sept. 2 – at East Rutherford; 3 – Madison; 9 – Rabun Gap, Georgia; 11 – at Polk 16 – Swain; 18 – Polk; 19 – at Erwin; 23 – Asheville; 30 – at Pisgah.
Oct. 2 – Hendersonville; 7 – at Brevard; 9 – at East Henderson; 14 – Franklin; 16 – Pisgah; 21 – at Hendersonville; 23 – Brevard; 28 – East Henderson; 30 – at Franklin.