PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry athletic director Randy Marion officially named Neal Oliver the head coach of its boys and girls soccer teams on Wednesday.
The Cardinals were in search of a new head coach following the departures of Bill Hart and Mike Lowery. Hart, the long-time coach of both East Surry soccer teams, only coached the girls in 2015-16, and he decided to step away for good this year with the hope of spending more time with his family. Lowery was the boys head coach and an assistant to Hart on the girls team during the latest school year.
Oliver, 60, has been heavily involved in the Surry County soccer scene since his arrival in 1995. He’s coached numerous youth recreation teams and also has had a role with the Pilot Mountain Middle school teams over the past decade as either the head coach or an assistant coach.
He also served as the Pilot Mountain Youth Soccer Association’s first president in the early 2000s. Oliver has experience coaching travel soccer with the Northern Triad Soccer Club based out of King, and most recently he was the head coach of the North Stokes girls soccer team from 2014-2015.
“We are very excited about the knowledge (Oliver) brings to East Surry,” Coach Marion said. “He knows how to develop and run a high school program, all the way from the youth programs to the varsity level.”
Oliver already has some experience coaching the current crop of East Surry players when they were at Pilot Mountain Middle. He also coached many of the Cardinals from the 2014 state runner-up squad.
“I’ve kind of had a first-hand look at how the high school program has grown in the last 10 years,” Oliver said. “I put my name into the hat because I felt like I was the right man to help continue that growth. So many people have worked hard to promote soccer in Surry County, and I don’t want to see any school go down hill.”
The boys season is rapidly approaching and Oliver will be tasked with improving an East Surry squad that went 5-15 in 2015. However, last year’s team was stocked with freshmen and sophomores, and lost only seven departing seniors.
The girls team at East Surry continues to be on the upswing. In 2016, the Lady Cardinals went 12-10-1, finished second in the Northwest Conference and reached the third round of the NCHSAA playoffs for the first time in school history.
“I’m excited about everything that’s coming my way,” Oliver said. “There is a lot of young talent throughout both programs, it’s just a matter of getting the chemistry going.”
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16