by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — Franklin Academy boys soccer coach Michael Hunt is counting on his returning starters to carry the load this season as the team looks to make a third consecutive playoff appearance.
The Patriots return eight starters, including two all-conference players, one of whom was also all-regional from last season’s 16-6 squad. That team lost in the regional round of the North Carolina State High School Athletic Association 1A state playoffs to South Onslow.
However, the 2012 end result was the best finish ever for a Franklin Academy soccer team.
“We are going to have to work on team play this season,” Hunt said. “I believe we can do that by playing together and working the ball into the final third.”
Franklin Academy lost three players to graduation, including their leading scorer and all-state player Ian Hunt, who accounted for 49 of the Patriots goals.
“Losing Ian is a void that we are going to have to work hard to fill,” Hunt said. “Some of the senior boys are going to have to step up and finish for us this season.”
Senior all-conference midfielder Brian Gonzales returns along with junior Peter Kassay, the Patriots goalkeeper. Kassay earned both all-conference and all-region honors in 2012.
“Brian is one of those players who has talent and drive in addition to being a very unselfish player,” Hunt said. “He can play virtually any position on the field and does that with no complaint. I fully expect him to play a major role in our success this year.”
Kassay, Hunt said, had an excellent season in 2012.
“He was a standout and I had several coaches comment on his play,” Hunt said. “I’m hoping that his experience in goal will benefit our back line this season. I believe he will be one of the premier goal keepers in the league.”
Hunt will also rely on returning senior midfielders Chris Hughes, Gabe Milioni, Jesse Frutiger and Cory Voorhis.
Defensively, Franklin Academy will be led by sophomore Chase Moseley and Andrew Weiss, a junior.
“I have six seniors, five of whom have played on the team for a number of years,” Hunt said. “They are excited and committed to working hard and having a successful season this year. It’s going to be fun coaching them.”
“I know I have something special when they are working on their own together in the off season — when the team is unable to train together,” Hunt went on to say.
Joining the team is Nick Hughes, a sophomore center back.
“He’s a great player who will help shore up our back line,” Hunt said. “Nick has played at a very competitive level in club ball and I’m hoping that he brings that experience to our back line.”
A challenge for the Patriots will be finishing in the final third, said Hunt.
“I think we should have an experienced and mature midfield, which should help us in the attack and allow us to possess the ball,” he said.
Unselfish play will be the key to another successful season, said Hunt.
“The willingness to truly put the team before the individual is what is going to make the difference,” he said. “I think the team is set up to succeed, but only if we play together and put the team’s success first.”
The Patriots will also have to adjust to a new league and will be playing in the North Central Athletic Conference against some new teams.
They will be joined by East Wake Academy, Kestrel Heights, Raleigh Charter, River Mill, Roxboro Community, Voyager Academy and Woods Charter.
Hunt says it is difficult to say how his team will do in a new conference with so many new teams to play.
“All we can control is how we play and react,” he said. “Raleigh Charter is always tough and the other schools are beginning to develop very competitive programs as well. So, I’m looking forward to a competitive new conference.”