BSN’S FALL SPORTS 2019-2020 PREVIEW

BOY’S SOCCER

Boys Soccer should be interesting this year as they are coming off a respectable 13-7 season and 10-6 in conference play. Led by 6 year head coach Bryan Pagan, the Bears won the PAC-9 tournament championship in 2018 by defeating conference foe Cape Fear 2-1. Despite winning the tournament championship the Bears were unable to advance past the first round of the state playoffs, falling to a high-powered Cleveland team.

Fast forward to 2019 and the outlook for the Bears footballers looks promising. Here’s why. Of the team’s 75 goals in 2018, forty-one were scored by sophomores. Those sophomores were led by Carlisle Eley, who also led the team in goals with 21 and held fifth in the same category in the conference. Another sophomore, Eric Chavez, led the team in assists with a total of 9 (only one other player had more assists). Last year’s sophomores, now rising juniors, will be joined by a host of rising sophomores and rising seniors who bring talent, speed, and know-how to the Bears soccer team.

Coach Pagan graduated seven seniors, three of which were starters and a huge part of the Bears’ success. Pagan believes that through his really strong junior varsity program led by Coach RJ Jones, he will be able to fill the vacuum created by the loss of Drake Camire, Garrett Hoyt, and Hayden Diaz. He will also rely on returners such as Yancii Johnson, which should fill the center back role. Pagan says that he will depend on Eric Chavez to “facilitate the offense in the mid field”, “Carlisle Eley will help lead our guys as target forward”, while “James Faatz and Yancii Johnson will help to solidify our back line”. Pagan noted that returner Ryan Dukes, a solid defender, will continue as Keeper for the Bears.

For the upcoming season, Coach Pagan will focus on improving mental toughness and leadership skills. “I plan on implementing a leadership curriculum this season to help my guys get a better idea of what leadership looks like from a player”, adds Pagan. He believes that with the multi-talented roster, along with improved mental toughness the Bears footballers can “win the conference and make a deep run in the state tournament”.

VOLLEYBALL

Bears Volleyball is poised to make waves as the squad has nine varsity players returning for the 2019 season. Led by first year coach Jalesty Washington, the Bears racked up seventeen wins and only recorded five losses. Washington’s Bears only fell twice in conference play, and basically split regular season with conference foes Cape Fear and Terry Sanford. The Bears were able to win the conference championship, defeating a very tough Cape Fear team, who only lost five contests for the entire season, only one of which was a PAC-9 conference loss.

And now going into her second season, Washington has nine returners, many of whom are key players. It should be noted that rival teams Cape Fear and Terry Sanford also have a slew of returners as well. However, the Bears have rising sophomore phenom Kylie Aldridge, who debuted on the varsity squad as a freshman. The high-flying freshman lit up the stat sheet and led the PAC-9 conference in kills (278 and tied with one other player), hits (49.3%) and aces (106). Another stats leader is rising junior Morgan Brady who also recorded decent stats. Another offensive weapon for the Bears is Kelsie Rouse, whose setting responsibilities will be important for wins this year and Coach Washington believes “she is just strong enough to do it”.

The squad will be supported by dig specialists Summer Powell and Hailey Pait, who recorded a combined 391 digs. The pair will be supported by rising junior Aliyah Brown, who should also be a leader in digs this year. Rising junior Jaide Holliday, who led the conference in blocks will help to secure the net to round out what should be a very competitive Gray’s Creek volleyball team.

“I’m still pushing to get a vocal leader to step up and lead our team this year from the court”, says Coach Washington.  “I want the team to grow and reach outside of their comfort zone”, she adds. Washington’s goals for this year are to continue to build the program, develop scholar athletes and to reach deeper into the state playoffs.  We believe that she is well on her way to accomplishing her goals for her young team.

FOOTBALL

Friday nights at The Creek will be highly anticipated this summer. Even fourteen-year coach David Lovette is expecting a very interesting but competitive year. While Coach Lovette will have a very fast, athletic team, he is only returning five starters on the defensive side and only four starters on the offensive side. However, according to Lovette, many of the reserves from last year saw significant playing time so the varsity look should not be new to his returning underclassmen (more on this later).

The Bears have a new look this year, and we don’t just mean the beautiful but bold looking new jerseys. On defense, “we were able to procure Terry Rea as defensive coordinator, who comes to us from Weir High School in West Virginia” submits Lovette. Also, Lovette added Taurius Baker, by way of West Bladen as his new linebackers coach. “I really love what is going on at Gray’s Creek and I feel blessed to be a part of it”, proclaims Baker.

On the offensive side of the ball, Lovette lost some key players in the backfield, such as three-year starter Andre Allen and Tre Beckett who rushed for over 1200 yards last season. However, the very talented Jerry Garcia will return in the backfield at tailback, along with fullback Gavin Freeman. “Gaven and Jerry are very capable of being a good 1 – 2 punch in the backfield”, proclaims Lovette. Additionally, rising junior Jarrod Kenney will compliment the backfield with significant minutes and should help the team as well. In addition to a talented backfield, Ben Lovette will return under center and will continue to have the “good hands” receiver Dalton Patrick to reach out to through the air. And in summer workouts, TJ Dingle has shown himself as a formidable target for Bears quarterback Ben Lovette.

On the defensive end, the Bears have lost several key players, such as Armaiah Banks, who was very tough as outside linebacker. Not only will Lovette miss Banks’s defensive prowess, but he will be losing a key leader on the team. On the defensive line, Domo McMillan and Isaiah Mills will be missed as well. However, a few young players and other additions should be noticeably impactful early. For example, rising sophomore Jalen Johnson will make a huge impact at defensive end. At corner will be the speedster Zach Adams, who moved in from out of state and he will be fun to watch. Rising juniors Josiah Arreguin and Robert Burks should make themselves known at the outside linebacker positions

Overall, Lovette believes that his young Bears will be very competitive in the conference. He does recognize, however, that vast improvements will need to be made. “Offensively, we need to cut down on turnovers and to finish drives”, comments Lovette. “Defensively, we need to work on tackling and not giving up big plays”, he adds. Lovette stressed that he and his staff will put a lot of focus on special teams, which he believes may have cost the team a measure of success last year. Nevertheless, Lovette believes in the competitiveness of his program and he believes that the Bears are in a good place for competing for the conference championship in the upcoming season.

CROSS COUNTRY

The Bears Cross Country team will be led by The Creek’s latest arrivals, Melanie Smith, who comes to us from Westover and Nick Lewis, who will be starting his second year at The Creek. Smith and Lewis will have big shoes to fill since Coach Rachel Hendrickson left Bear Country to pursue other opportunities within the school district. In Hendrickson’s last season at the helm, she was able to place 14 runners in regional competition.

The youthful team of Smith and Lewis are not new to running as Smith lettered in track and field in high school, and from what we are told, she was pretty good at it. Lewis comes over from Track and Field and Girls Basketball to lend his talents to continuing the development of our young runners. We expect Smith and Lewis to bring their own measure of energy and innovativeness to the team this year to continue the winning ways sparked by Hendrickson.

Lewis and Smith will need to address some key losses, such as the very talented runners Ashlyn Johnson, Adam Lindee, Jerrett Jacops, and Steven Hogan, all of whom qualified for regional competition. With these runners moving on to college, returners such as Haylie Bragg, Aryn Forsythe, Chloe Tabberer, Isabell Coddington, and Lindy Peterson, all of whom qualified for regional competition, will have to step up their games on the girls side. On the boys side, returners such as Garrett Harbison, Aiden Shea, and Jamari Richardson, all of whom qualified for regional competition, will continue to establish themselves as formidable runners in the PAC-9 conference.

As for the expected standouts, senior Aryn Forsythe, sophomore Isabel Coddington, and senior Haylie Bragg, among others, are expected to be very competitive in the upcoming season. On the boys side, Garrett Harbison is well-known throughout the conference and has established himself as a target for other runners to beat. Harbison competed well in the regionals in the last season but with another year of running and training under his belt, the expectation is that he will improve his times such that he will qualify for states in the upcoming season.

It may be an understatement that Smith and Lewis are very excited to carry on the legacy of accomplishment started by Hendrickson. The pair is inheriting a well-run program, packed with an assortment of great student-athletes. While Smith and Lewis will be coaching several seasoned runners, there will be much room for improvement, which should help to continue to build an already stable Cross Country program.

GIRL’S GOLF

Bears Lady Golf will be led by Bears softball coach and golf hobbyist Stuart “Stu” Gilmer in the 2019 season. He will be returning three seasoned golfers, mostly seniors, and one sophomore. The roster will include senior Logan “Markie” Patterson, senior Rebecca Collins, senior Marasol Moreno, and sophomore Cassidy Valente.

In the 2018 season the Lady Bears managed to finish third in the PAC-9 conference. And of the roster of five, three of the golfers qualified for regionals. Logan Patterson and Marasol Morena were able to compete in regional competition. Rebecca Collins, although she qualified for regional competition, decided not to occupy her slot due to unknown reasons.

The Lady Bears golfers are expected to return to regional competition and Coach Gilmer wants to improve the team’s standing in the conference as well as individual scores. He also plans to work on improving individually by spending time at the driving range in an effort to fine-tune the girls’ golf swings. Gilmer also acknowledges that the girls could improve their putting and chipping skills. “We are going to have a good time” proclaims Gilmer.

GIRL’S TENNIS

Girls Tennis will definitely be fun to watch this year. This is in part due to the fact that several of the various athletes in Bear Country will lend their athleticism, derived from soccer and softball, to building a formidable female tennis team.

Coach Jordan Musselwhite must be pleased with the fact that he will coach some of the best soccer and softball athletes in the entire PAC-9 conference, who will be using their athletic prowess to try and claim a conference championship in the 2019 season.

Returning to the roster will be softball stars Jaden Pone and Courtney Cygan as well as soccer stars Eve Morrison and Morgan Valentin-Morgan. These ladies gained valuable experience in the previous season, competing against the best that the conference has to offer. It is expected that each of these ladies, along with the other roster occupants, will get better and better and continue to use their athleticism to gain advantage over their opponents.

Returning to the roster will be softball stars Jaden Pone and Courtney Cygan as well as soccer stars Eve Morrison and Morgan Valentin-Morgan. These ladies gained valuable experience in the previous season, competing against the best that the conference has to offer. It is expected that each of these ladies, along with the other roster occupants, will get better and better and continue to use their athleticism to gain advantage over their opponents.

It is expected that with the athleticism and competitive natures of his players, Musselwhite and his Lady Bears should finish strong in the conference this year, most likely close to the top of the pack. It is also expected that several of the rising juniors and seniors should be able to secure regional playoff spots.

CHEER

Anyone who understands the climate of sports gets the fact that crowd engagement is very important to filling the wins column. This is one important concept that second year coach Gina George has kept in mind since taking over the squad for the 2018-19 season. George, with thirty years competitive cheer experience, and who owns a competitive cheer gym, has already seen gains in the cheer program at Gray’s Creek. There has been a spike in crowd engagement, led by the cheer squad, and “the players feel it and the coaches feel it” says George.

George graduated six seniors in 2019, two of which played key roles for the squad as captains. “Taylor Davis and Abigail Leggett brought more than just talent and leadership to the squad”, says George”. “They were also leaders in the school and this was evident in their grades as well as school involvement”. “They just represented the school well”, reminisces George. George plans to replace the two leaders with senior Kevianna McGeachy and junior Isabella Epps. “Kevianna and Isabella will bring a high level of talent and leadership to the squad,” adds George.

With respect to Cheer, George believes that the Gray’s Creek area has some of the best talent in Cumberland County. Because of the high level of skill among the girls trying out, George felt it necessary to keep 25 on the squad. And of that 25 that George kept, 18 girls are proficient with tumbling. George plans to use that skill to build on the success from competitive cheer from last year, which landed them first place at a regional cheer competition. “I am so happy that we are recognized as a sport”, comments George and this is due in part to participating in competitive cheer.

George believes that her squad will have a good year supporting football and basketball. As stated earlier, she believes that their style of entertaining the fans and fan engagement, will be felt by the players as well as our coaches. George believes that this is a factor that the players will use for extra motivation on the court and on the field. She also plans to add more competitive dates to the schedule.

Finally, George sees cheer as a way to build character and help to guide her girls to be successful in life. She plans to work hard to help her girls earn scholarships and secure “spots” on college cheer squads. One of her girls from last year earned a cheer scholarship and two from this upcoming season have already earned cheer scholarships. She believes that through competitive cheer, she will be able to place more girls on college squads due to the fact that college cheer coaches often frequent competitive cheer events. George hopes that the community will continue to support cheer and encourage student-athletes of all ages to seek opportunities to learn, grow, and to eventually rise to the level of skill that she expects.

-Coach Rhoda, BSN Adviser

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