Sherando boys soccer preview

Sherando’s Ethan Laing jumps over the leg of Liberty’s Fernando Castro during first half soccer action at Shenandoah University during the Northwestern District soccer quarterfinals last season. Laing is one of six players returning with valuable experience from last year’s team.

STEPHENS CITY – Despite losing some experienced players to graduation, Sherando’s boys soccer team is confident about the upcoming season.

The Warriors only return six players with valuable experience from last year’s squad, but coach Pat Anderson is happy with what he’s seen from his team this year.

“We got some new guys and a good group of sophomores that got a lot of playing experience last year,” Anderson said. “So we’re hoping for some big things from them. And then, of course, we got Nate (Laing) up top scoring wise. And then we got Eli Racey back this year. He didn’t play last year, and he’s back. So he seems to be vastly improved from his sophomore year. And then having (Scott) Spencer in goal – a quality goalkeeper. So the biggest thing for us is to be able to jell in practice.”

Laing is the team’s top returning goal scorer after scoring 11 last season. He also had nine assists. Max Polio, who graduated in 2018, led the team last season with 13 goals.

Anderson said the biggest strength of the Warriors is their defense, where they return several key players.

Spencer said it’s nice to have a great defense in front of him.

“Defensively I think we’re fantastic,” Spencer said. “I think we have some of the best defenders in the area. ...We got some great defenders on the team that are looking to step up. It feels good to have security in front of me.”

Spencer led the area last season with 125 saves and four shutouts. Anderson said that having Spencer in goal gives the team the luxury of being able to try some different things defensively.

Sherando senior defender Michael Leckie said that it helps the defense to know that they have Spencer behind them to help them out.

“It’s definitely nice knowing that you’re never going to save every shot or block every shot, but if you have that second chance to save it he’s back there,” Leckie said. “And he can definitely do it if you need to.”

The Warriors have 22 players on this year’s squad but only four returning seniors.

Spencer said even though they are small in numbers he feels good about the senior leadership on the team this season.

“I feel like we’ve got some pretty good leadership in the seniors,” he said. “A lot of guys are willing to step up when times may be tough and push the guys that are new to varsity, to pick up their pace and pick up their level because it’s a different experience from playing (junior varsity). So I think we got some great leadership.”

Sherando opens its season on March 11 by hosting Woodgrove.

Anderson said he thinks that the Class 4 Northwestern District will be wide open and that any team is capable of winning it.

Anderson said he likes how hard his players are working on getting ready for the season opener.

“Our philosophy is we kind of take it game by game,” he said. “And do the things right prior to the game. Then hopefully we’ll be successful in that realm. Our work ethic’s there. So now we just got to get better at the tactical side of things.”

Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com