After a dozen years away from the program, one of North Surry’s most successful coaches ever is back at the help of the Greyhounds’ soccer program.
Eric Jessup is best known in Hound Country for the long line of conference and tournament championship trophies that his wrestling teams have delivered to the North Surry trophy case, but there was a time when he also directed the school’s soccer fortunes.
“I coached the soccer team for three years, my last year was 2005,” he said. “I enjoyed it, but at the time, I had two small children, and I was jumping from soccer right into wrestling.”
However, Jessup’s children are older now, and when North Surry put out the call for its third boys’ soccer coach in three seasons, Jessup answered the call and took the reins back.
“It’s a better fit now,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it, and we have a good group of kids to work with.”
Jessup takes over a team coming off the best season in North Surry soccer history. A year ago, the Greyhounds went unbeaten in their first 10 matches (8-0-2) and ended up finishing third in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference behind perennial powerhouses Forbush and Surry Central. A loss in the state playoffs to West Caldwell ended North Surry’s season at 15-6-2, the most wins and best record the program had ever enjoyed.
However, the successful season came in part on the talents of eight seniors, who all were part of the Hounds’ starting lineup. On top of that, the roster was very top-heavy. North Surry had just three juniors last season, along with four sophomores and five freshmen. Jessup is taking over a team that has tasted success, but also a team with a lot of youth and inexperience.
“We’re really young, but we’re working hard to improve,” he said. “I’m excited to see what we can accomplish this season.”
Fans of the Hounds got their first look at the 2017 team against another opponent on Thursday evening, when Ashe County traveled to North for a scrimmage. Both the varsity and JV teams squared off with the Huskies, who went 16-8 and finished second in the Mountain Valley Conference last season. Jessup’s team acquitted itself well in the varsity portion of the scrimmage, in which North Surry played Ashe to a scoreless draw. In fact, he felt like with a little better luck, the Hounds could have gotten the better of it.
“It was a good night, we played really well,” he said. “We actually had several nice shots on goal, but we kept shooting wide, high or right at the keeper.”
The Hounds are still trying to settle on the lineup for this season, but they will certainly be building around the talents of the four returning starters. The three aforementioned juniors, midfielders Jesus Bautista and Pedro Galeana and sweeper Jonathan Cardoso, are back for their senior seasons and back in the lineup. Forward Javier Vera returns for his junior campaign.
Even though Jessup has been away from the program since his players were in preschool, he’s kept up with the game and knows what to expect.
“I’ve kept up with them, because I’ve had a lot of soccer players in my classes at school,” he said. “I’ve also been to a lot of the games. I know who the other teams are and how they like to play.”
The conference itself may be a little tougher this season. South Stokes, which struggled last year, is out of the league (although North will begin its season at home against the Sauras on Wednesday). In its place are Walkertown and Atkins, and while the Hounds handled the latter roughly when they played last fall, the Wolfpack was one of the better teams in a very tough Northwest 1A. Not to mention that any team that wants to contend in the WPAC has to muscle its way past the Falcons and Golden Eagles first — last fall, three of North’s six losses were by one goal each to Forbush and Surry Central.
For years, the other wrestling teams in the WPAC have largely been chasing Jessup, whose teams have won or shared nine straight conference crowns. North Surry fans hope he does as well as the hunter as he does as the hunted.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.