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by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — Heritage High School soccer coach Scott Sloan is confidently looking forward to a successful season for the Huskies.
After a solid 2012 campaign, the Heritage boys’ soccer team could be even better this upcoming season.
The Huskies, which finished second in the Cap 8 Conference with a 10-4 record and 16-8 overall mark, competed in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs and made it to the third round before losing 2-3 to East Chapel Hill.
“We surprised a lot of teams last year,” Sloan said. “We’re no longer an easy win for our opponents.”
Heritage could be reloading when it kicks off the new season as it unveils its new team.
The Huskies lost eight seniors, including five starters and have assembled a group that will improve by emphasizing and strengthening all the aspects of the game.
“We lost some players who gave us a lot of minutes,” Sloan said. “But now we have some guys who played not as many minutes but will be given the opportunity to play. At the same time, they have to step up and be leaders.”
Returning to the team this season are four talented seniors, 13 junior know-how players with skills and three sophomores in whom Sloan has confidence.
Sloan believes their experience will make for a well-rounded team.
“I like the fact that there’s balance, and for the first time, we have 11 players who are legitimate high school varsity players.”
One of those skilled players is Matt Sattler, a senior, who has been with the program all four years. He plays left back and Sloan refers to him as the “anchor” of the team.
Zack Shytle, another senior, brings versatility to the Huskies.
“He’s dynamic,” Sloan said. “He has progressed in the backline but we’ll see him moving forward.”
On the end of the field, Heritage is well represented by two keepers, senior Calvin Hamblet and Michael Ryan, a junior.
“They are both solid goalies, which makes for great competition,” Sloan said. “They both have to find time to play.”
“We have depth in every single position,” Sloan added.
Junior Fernando Morales says he wants to step up as a leader this year and work hard for a deeper run in the playoffs.
“I want to have a better end to last year’s results,” he said.
According to Sloan, this team is looking to brand itself as a championship team.
“Our program has grown,” he said. “We’ve graduated our first class of seniors and we’re no longer the new team on the block.”
“We have an outside chance to finish as one of the top three teams in the conference and the opportunity to win the conference championship,” Sloan added.
The team has played a couple of scrimmage games and Sloan said the team’s strengths and weaknesses have started to come into focus.
“We have a lot of speed this year and we’re the fastest we’ve ever been,” he said.
“We’re also going to score more goals this year than in the past,” Sloan said.
Senior Kidd Bottomley is one of those players who can find the back of the net. He scored the winning goal with 63 seconds left in Heritage’s win against Holly Springs in the first round of last year’s 4A state playoffs after completing a hat trick in the second round against Richmond Senior.
Last season, the Huskies outscored their opponents 66-38 with four shutouts.
“Balance is our biggest strength this year,” Sloan said. “Even last year, we felt we had holes. But this year, we will have 11 different play makers on the field.”
“We were young last season and this year we’re not,” Sloan said.
Last season the Huskies’ aim was to finish as a top-three team in the league and they surpassed that goal.
“The conference is showing more parity this season,” Sloan said. “All the teams are pretty balanced and there are five teams that can compete for the top three spots, including Heritage.”
“We want to get better as a team and we are making steps,” Sloan added. “I won’t be satisfied until the end of the season.”