The Bears won’t be in action tonight for the third round of the state 1A soccer playoffs. However, after setting several school records, Mount Airy looks poised for a big 2013.
Mount Airy traveled nearly to the South Carolina border Saturday to Monroe to face Central Academy. The home team won handily at 5-0, but the game was closer than the score, according to Coach Will Hurley.
Three of the five points came off penalty kicks, he noted. In one exchange, keeper Alex Mayo made a great block, but as the ball caromed back out, the Bears were called for a push in the back.
Central Academy was a very good team and didn’t need any help in scoring, he said.
While the loss and the long bus ride home hurt, a couple of days later the coach could look back on the season with pride.
Last year’s coach, Eric Leathers, was pleased to see the soccer program grow at Mount Airy. The school fielded its first JV team in 2011, and some of those freshman will be juniors moving up to varsity for 2013.
After the 2011 season, however, the Leathers’ household expanded with a newborn baby. With two small children at home, Leathers worried he wouldn’t be able to give the soccer program his full focus and strength.
Hurley, who has coached the girls’ team the past two seasons, agreed to take over the varsity team, but asked Leathers for any help he could provide.
With his sons Holden and Wes assisting, Hurley scheduled 23 regular-season games, the most in school history.
Things started off rough, losing the first two games narrowly.
Five days after losing 2-0 to Elkin, the Bears got a second chance at the Elks at home. The Bears responded with a 3-1 win that jumpstarted a hot streak.
Mount Airy ran off nine straight wins, including a 10-1 drubbing of East Wilkes and a 7-1 spanking of North Wilkes. The Bears also edged East Surry (3-2) and North Surry (5-3).
Then the Bears dropped five games in a month to West Stokes, Surry Central and Bishop McGuinness.
The Wildcats and Eagles were the top two teams in the league this season, and the Villains had never lost a match to Mount Airy.
The Bears didn’t fold, but rather ran off three of their last four before going to Central Academy, including the school’s first win over Bishop: 5-2 on Oct. 23.
Mount Airy finished tied for first place in the 1A side of the Northwest Conference. Tiebreakers gave the 1A top seed to East Surry, but Hurley is still pleased with the winning record in conference play.
Adding to the program firsts: the first time that Mount Airy hosted a playoff soccer game and the first time the Bears won a home playoff game – a 2-1 win over South Stokes on Halloween.
Hurley appreciated the turnout for the home crowd (about 50 people), despite it being bitterly cold and also Halloween with people having obligations on their time.
When the Bears held Senior Night on Oct. 18, most of the seniors mentioned the nine-game winning streak as their fondest varsity soccer memory.
The guys were determined to keep that streak going as long as possible, Hurley said.
The Bears lose five valuable seniors –Ian Halpern, Alex Mayo, Daylon Shaw, Corey Valentine and Tyler Wall – but return much of the varsity squad and will have some players moving up from JV.
Among them are leading scorers Mitchell Brown and Sam Watson and defensive dynamo Carlos Carrillo.
There were six sophomores on varsity this season, so the Bears will still be a young team next year, the coach noted.
The Bears not only could finish atop the 1A side of the conference, but could challenge Central and West Stokes for the Northwest title.