2016 Boys Soccer Player of the Year: Central’s Wolford thrives as team’s captain in senior season

Central's Korey Wolford moves the ball during a May 3 game with Clarke County. Wolford is the Northern Virginia Daily soccer player of the year. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Prior to the start of each high school soccer season, Central High School boys soccer coach Ted Poor opens the floor to his players in a vote for the spring’s team captains.

Every so often, Poor, who said he prefers his team leaders to be vocal, has to step in and name at least one captain of his choosing. No such action was needed when senior Korey Wolford was voted into a leadership role before the start of the 2016 season.

Wolford, Poor said last week, was selected the “right way,” and the senior’s status and expectations among his teammates for the upcoming season were set.

“They had to think that I was able to carry the team, you know,” Wolford said. “It feels really good.”

The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2016 Boys Soccer Player of the Year, Wolford looked the part of team captain for the Falcons. The senior forward led the team in goals (19) and assists (13) and also held the top marks among local boys soccer players in both categories.

The key to that output, Wolford said, was a combination of team chemistry (nearly the entire roster plays travel soccer together for Shenandoah County Soccer League Maxx) and each of Central’s players becoming comfortable in their assigned roles on the field.

“It’s part teammates … and it’s definitely knowing your runs and knowing where to be, knowing your position, knowing how to play in everything,” said Wolford, a second team all-Region 2A East selection. “If you get other teammates that know how to play their position and you know how to work the field and you can see the field, start making plays and stuff, it’s really not as hard. If you can make plays and get open, it’s pretty simple.”

Wolford’s 2016 production came on the heels of a six-goal effort during his junior season last year, his first at the varsity level with the Falcons. Wolford matched his 2015 numbers with a pair of hat tricks this past spring, one against Warren County on April 14 and another on May 12 against Strasburg.

“I think for one, I definitely think I got faster, which is really good,” Wolford said when comparing his junior and senior seasons. “A lot of teams, they’re not expecting faster players and when you run them down the field they aren’t really ready for that. I also think I improved on ball handling. I started juggling a lot more, so ball-handling skills and just kind of when I get the ball, staying calm and collected and looking for the pass and stuff, make sure we can obtain possession.”

It helped, Wolford said, that the Falcons offered him plenty of surrounding support, as he was hardly the only goal-scorer on the team’s deep roster. Fellow senior Elmer Lopez, a midfielder, finished the season with 10 goals, junior midfielder Ivan Alvarado scored nine and four other Falcons finished with at least three.

“We had a really fast team,” Wolford said, “and sometimes when Elmer would sprint up there I’d be kind of relieved because I wouldn’t have to. I would just cover for him.”

Wolford was glad to create scoring chances for others, too.

“An assist to me is like a goal,” he said. “As long as the team is scoring then that’s what really matters. It doesn’t matter how many I score, it just matters if we’re winning and playing as a team.”

With Wolford spearheading their attack, the Falcons soared to 12 wins and their first regional tournament appearance in five seasons. Central’s season came to an end with a 2-1 road loss to Robert E. Lee in the Region 2A East quarterfinals on May 30.

The Falcons averaged more than three goals per game, and Wolford scored or assisted on over half of the Falcons’ 58 goals this season.

“He has wonderful speed, great skills and I think one thing that he improved on this year was his accuracy. That had a lot to do with it,” Poor said.

“We were fast. We had speed on the wings, we had speed on the front, we had speed behind, so we could shift to one side and swing the ball, which we did quite often to create opportunities.”

Wolford, who first began playing soccer around the age of 5, said he will attend Lord Fairfax Community College in the fall and plans to continue his soccer career with the Lions, who compete in the National Intramural Sports and Recreation Association. He said he will likely transfer to James Madison University or George Mason University after receiving his associate degree in two years.

Wolford leaves Central having been chosen as a first team all-Conference 35 and all-Bull Run District pick and a second team all-region selection, and he was voted as the Falcons’ team Most Valuable Player at season’s end after leading Central to its most successful season since 2011.

“It did feel good to pull in the awards,” Wolford said. “Just the experience of playing with your teammates, and going as far as you can with how you guys make it, it’s really rewarding to see that we got pretty far.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com