Warriors’ boys soccer team riding experienced core to early success

WINCHESTER – Sherando High School’s boys soccer team brought back 11 seniors for the 2017 season. After being shut out in a loss at Tuscarora to open the year, the Warriors have begun to see the effects of that returning experience.

Since falling 2-0 to the Huskies on March 21, Sherando has ripped off five consecutive victories that have included a trio of wins against Conference 21 West competition and another against a member of a higher Virginia High School League classification.

“We’re dependent on their leadership, being that experienced, like we had a couple years ago,” Warriors head coach Pat Anderson said of his seniors during an indoor practice at Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School on Thursday afternoon. “And it’s coming through so far. Last week we had four games in six days … so that was a challenge. But they came through pretty good.

“It’s a good group of kids. And they’re finally, you can tell they’re kind of bonding together with each other, which is nice.”

Sherando, which remained off until Friday’s trip to Woodgrove – which ended in a 4-0 Warrior victory – after last week’s loaded schedule, has outscored its opponents 17-3 over the last five matches.

The Warriors’ winning streak began with their first match against the Wolverines, a 5-1 win at home on March 27. Sherando picked up another conference win at home, a 3-1 victory over Harrisonburg, two days later before capping its successful week with road victories over Broad Run (1-0 on March 30) and Turner Ashby (4-1 last Saturday).

Anderson called Sherando’s win over Broad Run – a member of the VHSL’s Group 5A classification – a high note for the Warriors, citing the fact that they hadn’t beaten the Spartans in “quite some time.”

Bolstered offensively by the return of seniors Sean Buono and Seth Wade – who both earned first team all-conference recognition last season – the Warriors have already shown to be more formidable on the attack than they were a season ago.

Buono, a forward, has already struck for five goals this spring to bring him two shy of his team-leading mark from last season, while Wade, a midfielder who scored four times in 2016, has already punched in three goals, according to Anderson.

While those two figure to remain the primary offensive catalysts for the Warriors, Anderson said the team has been using its established chemistry to work on building a more balanced offense this spring that will rely less on a select few players.

“Probably just that (chemistry), working together and a little bit more freedom when they play with each other because now they kind of know what each other is trying to do and what they do off the ball and on the ball, things like that,” said Anderson, whose team saw its 2016 season end in the Conference 21 West tournament semifinals. “I think last year we struggled to score consistently, just that year difference makes a big difference. Those guys kind of knowing who, what, where and when it’s gonna happen type of thing has been a big plus.”

The increased efficiency on offense has likely aided a Warrior defense that has been revamped this spring after losing most of its starting experience to graduation. Jacob Crowley, a junior, is playing a new position as Sherando’s center back, Anderson said, while senior Victor Pinto has moved back to left back. Junior Luke White, who played for the Warriors’ junior varsity squad last season, has emerged as a “bright spot” along Sherando’s defensive line this spring, Anderson said.

That trio has been playing in front of sophomore goalkeeper Spencer Scott, a first-year starter.

Following Friday’s match at Woodgrove, Sherando will host Turner Ashby on Saturday, the start of five straight home matches that include games against conference/district rivals Millbrook and James Wood next week.

Anderson, whose team failed to reach the Region 4A West tournament last season after qualifying for the regional round in three of the previous four seasons, said he hasn’t placed any goals or expectations on this year’s group.

“We always say just be successful each game is our ultimate goal,” he said, “because we don’t wanna foreshadow or put anything (on them).”

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