PILOT MOUNTAIN — High school sports teams across the area are trying to figure out a way to replace senior leadership that graduated in the summer, but the East Surry soccer team may have the most daunting task of all.
The Cardinals went 16-6-2 in 2014 and made it all the way to the state championship match where they fell to Wallace-Rose Hill 3-1. However, nine of 11 starters from that runner-up team were seniors.
Furthermore, the Cardinals will enter this transition year with a new head coach. Mike Lowery, a former assistant coach at East Surry, will take over and replace the longstanding Bill Hart this fall.
Lowery has high hopes for his first season in charge, but he knows East Surry will need time to gel.
“I do think we’re going to have to be a little patient to let this team come together,” Lowery said. “It’s almost a brand-new team who has impressed me so far, and I think they can come together, but there’s definitely going to be a learning period.”
One of Lowery’s returning starters is moving to a new position.
Andrew Rogers played goalie for East Surry last year, but he is shifting to a midfield role in 2015.
“It’s not that big of a switch,” Lowery said. “We just needed him to play goalie in the past and now we have the opportunity to move him into the field. He wanted to make the switch because he knew it would best help the team.”
This opportunity came to East Surry because of Ryan Sutterby, a senior transfer from Asheboro High School. Lowery loves the fact that Sutterby has extensive experience in between the posts, instead of being a field player who can also play goalie.
Another Cardinal switching positions will be the last line of defense for Sutterby. Storm Livingston played forward last season, and although he did not start, he got a significant amount of playing time.
However, Livingston will play sweeper for the Cardinals this year. In front of him, freshman Seth Lowe is the front runner to become the stopper.
“Seth comes with a lot of soccer knowledge,” Lowery said. “He has a ton of composure and skill on the ball, and he will help us build our attack from the back.”
Seniors Ryan Smith and Ryan Sisk have the inside track on nabbing the final two starting spots on the back line.
Joining Rogers in the midfield will be Alex Mijes and Noah Shaw. The two seniors will play on the wings and are best at creating opportunities with their crosses.
“Those two do a great job of supplying my center-midfielders and center-forwards with opportunities to score,” Lowery said.
Last year the Cardinals often played four midfielders, but Lowery said that East Surry will start this season with five. The competition for the final two spots is still ongoing.
One spot on the field where Lowery doesn’t have to worry about a learning curve is up front where All-Conference striker Trace Simmons returns for East Surry.
Simmons was the Cardinals’ leading goal scorer in 2014 and he has a knack for getting to the ball on the ground or in the air because of his speed.
“Out of all the teams we played last year, I’m pretty sure Trace was always the fastest guy on the field,” Lowery said. “Nobody can outrun him. I suppose it’s possible, but I haven’t seen it yet.”
The Cards open the season Monday night at Starmount. Their first home game will be Thursday against Surry Central.
Aug. 17 Starmount Away 7:00
Aug. 19 West Stokes Away 5:30
Aug. 20 Surry Central Home 7:00
Aug. 24 Alleghany Home 6:00
Aug. 26 West Stokes Home 6:00
Aug. 29 East Duplin Cary 3:00
Aug. 31 North Surry Home 7:00
Sept. 2 Alleghany Away 6:00
Sept. 14 Surry Central Away 7:00
Sept. 21 North Surry Away 7:00
Sept. 22 Walkertown* Away 6:00
Sept. 24 Bishop McGuinness* Home 7:00
Sept. 29 Atkins* Home 6:00
Oct. 1 Winston-Salem Prep* Away 6:00
Oct. 6 Mount Airy* Away 7:00
Oct. 13 Walkertown* Home 6:00
Oct. 15 Forbush Away 7:00
Oct. 19 Bishop McGuinness* Away 7:00
Oct. 20 Atkins* Away 6:00
Oct. 22 Winston-Salem Prep* Home 6:00
Oct. 27 Mount Airy Home 7:00
*denotes NW conference match
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16