QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson’s boys soccer team turned Matt Burgwald’s debut season as head coach into the program’s first state tournament appearance in five years last spring. That may mean a higher set of expectations for the Generals in 2019, but Burgwald said last week he felt his players were handling their newfound success well.
“I’d say that we’re pretty grounded,” Burgwald said. “I think that we were fortunate last year as far as our accomplishments. We weren’t expected to get anywhere near that last year. I think that we have a lot of good players, it’s just a matter of if we can get the chemistry together fast enough.”
Building that chemistry doesn’t figure to be an extremely difficult task for Stonewall, which won the Region 1B championship in 2018. The Generals returned seven of the 10 players who earned all-region recognition last spring, and most of the players in Stonewall’s program play together year-round on the Shenandoah County Maxx travel team that Burgwald coaches.
“Having that right there, a core group of guys, having the seven returning keeps the chemistry going. Chemistry’s gonna be key if we want to be successful again,” Generals senior midfielder Devin Miller said. “It’s been good. Last year it was a lot better than what it was in previous years. Last year it just seemed to click.”
The Generals, who had last made a state tournament appearance in 2013, rebounded from several seasons of struggle to go 13-9-1. They finished third in the Shenandoah District during the 2018 regular season and second in the district tournament before winning the Region 1B championship and booking a spot in the Class 1 state quarterfinals.
Stonewall’s season came to an end there, when the Generals fell to Rappahannock on penalty kicks on their home field.
“Luckily we get a second chance at it, unlike the seniors that graduated last year,” said Miller, who noted that the state quarterfinal loss still sticks in his mind. “But for me, I don’t wanna go out that way again.”
Though Stonewall’s squad remains largely intact, the Generals did lose leading scorer Carlos Romero-Hernandez and midfielder Juan Arrocena-Jacuinde — two second team all-state players — to graduation, and senior goalkeeper Blake McCourt’s status this season remains uncertain due to a knee injury he suffered during football season.
Romero-Hernandez did most of the scoring for Stonewall in 2018 and finished the season with 28 goals, and he and Arrocena-Jacuinde combined for 25 assists last spring.
Burgwald said Stonewall’s go-to scorers in 2019 were yet to be determined last week, though the Generals do return sophomore forward Angel Arteaga Loorenzo, who scored 15 goals as a freshman, and Miller scored four goals last season.
“We’re way too early to kind of figure out as far as who’s gonna be a dominant goalscorer because that’s also a lot to do with our formations and how we set the field up,” Burgwald said. “It may not be traditional people that you’d think are gonna be goalscorers. … Last year we were fortunate that Carlos was more of a predatory striker, which are pretty big shoes to try to fill. I don’t think we have a natural one person, per se, that’s gonna do it, but I have a few in mind that I think are really gonna be able to step in and as the season, as the practices really start to gel, we should be able to see a little action out of them.”
Miller and senior defender Tyrel Morrison both said Stonewall’s passing needs to continue to improve, and Morrison — one of three senior defenders who earned all-region honors in 2018, alongside Garrett Estep (a first team all-state selection) and Chase Goble — added that the Generals’ chemistry should aid that improvement.
“We’ve always been playing together for like four years now, even the JV kids,” Morrison said. “I feel like (the chemistry is) pretty good. I mean we look pretty good in practice, our passes all connect.”
Burgwald, the Region 1B 2018 boys soccer coach of the year, said that while he’s strict when it comes to his teams making good on expectations, the Generals also try to have fun while sticking to the foundations of sportsmanship and attitude.
As for how Stonewall will fare this season, Burgwald said he got a feel for what lies ahead for the Generals at last season’s all-region meeting.
“As I was sitting there at the meeting we got to do a lot of interactions, and there’s a couple teams out there that I know are gonna be really, really talented teams,” said Burgwald, who opens the season Friday at Wilson Memorial. “So it’s gonna be rough. I just want us to not get blown out in any games and try to be there for 90 minutes.”