2017 Boys Soccer Coach of the Year: Experienced Warriors thrive under Anderson’s guidance

Patrick Anderson

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School longtime boys soccer coach Patrick Anderson was in a comfortable position before the Warriors even stepped foot on the soccer field in 2017. To figure out how Anderson got there, however, it’s necessary to backtrack.

Two years ago, Sherando fell in controversial fashion in the Region 4A North tournament quarterfinal match against Charlottesville, a game that was called with 33 minutes remaining due to persistent lightning. The Warriors featured 11 seniors that season but also had a large contingent of sophomores who weren’t likely soon to forget the way the 2015 season ended.

The following year, Anderson made sure the 2016 schedule was loaded with tough games to prepare that large group of rising juniors for their senior seasons this spring, and the Warriors took some beatings as a result.

But as the 2017 season approached with the Warriors prepared to once again boast a contingent of 11 well-traveled seniors, Anderson’s greatest challenge from the start this spring was simply not to over-think things.

“We knew we had a talented bunch as a coaching staff and my job was not to screw it up, is basically what it ended up being,” Anderson said last week. “With that much talent that was on the field, skill, the hard work – we knew they had all the right parts, just put them in the right spot and just don’t (over-think it).”

Sherando may not have been able to extend its season further than it did two years ago – the Warriors again fell in the regional quarterfinals – but the Warriors did find plenty of success along the way this past season.

Under the leadership of Anderson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2017 Boys Soccer Coach of the Year, Sherando finished the season with a record of 14-3-1, matched the school’s longest winning streak with 14 straight victories during the regular season and finished atop the Conference 21 West standings entering the conference tournament.

The Warriors featured a strong nucleus of goal scorers, defenders and skilled players up and down their formation, and Anderson said Sherando’s team-wide embracing of defensive fortitude proved to be a continued strength of the program.

But the head coach added that one of the team’s greatest attributes was the players’ “sacrifice for each other.”

“Our motto was ‘team first’ and this group lived up to that,” Anderson said. “Sacrificing for each other, playing through pain, looking out for each other, taking care of each other, getting each other in line if they weren’t doing what they were supposed to, not only on the field but … off the field. If they weren’t doing something they were supposed to do, these guys would get them in tow and get them in check.”

Led by senior forward Sean Buono – who scored 23 goals and earned a second-team nod on the Virginia High School League Group 4A All-State team  – a pair of second team All-Region 4A West honorees in senior forward Seth Wade and sophomore goalkeeper Spencer Scott, and a total of eight All-Conference 21 West award winners, Sherando averaged 3.6 goals per game while allowing 1.0 this spring.

But even as the Warriors were piling up noteworthy individual numbers, Anderson said his players never once mentioned those exploits. Even during the Warriors’ 14-match winning streak, which began after Sherando’s season-opening loss to Tuscarora and ended with a scoreless draw against Handley in the regular-season finale, the impressive run was never a topic of conversation.

“When we went on that winning streak, I mean we made sure we didn’t say anything but they could care less though,” Anderson said. “They were like all right, next man up, whoever we play, and let’s go.”

The Warriors’ success fizzled in the playoffs, however.

After the scoreless draw with Handley on May 11, which locked up the top seed in the Conference 21 West tournament and an automatic regional berth, the Judges toppled Sherando in the conference semifinals a week later.

The Warriors then fell to Kettle Run, the eventual Group 4A state champion, in the Region 4A West quarterfinals on May 29.

After surrendering just 12 goals during the regular season and posting eight shutouts in 16 matches, the Warriors allowed three goals in each of their two playoff losses and were outscored 6-2 in those two games.

Anderson pointed to missed opportunities as the primary culprit for Sherando’s postseason struggle and said the Warriors were “six inches” from converting a potentially game-changing goal on a volley from Nic Craig in the loss to Kettle Run.

“We knew that you’re not gonna get 12 shots a game or you might get four golden opportunities and we need to take care of them,” Anderson said. “Just need to take care of them, and again they got two good chances and took care of them, and we got two and only took care of one.”

Much like they did two years ago, the Warriors will now have to prepare for life without the 11 seniors that formed the core of Sherando’s 2017 squad.

“Another cycle through,” Anderson said. “And we just told (the underclassmen) at the last game … now it’s your all’s turn to step up, and they’re like ‘oh yeah.’ They know they had a great group of leaders all the way through.”