When the N.C. High School Athletic Association announced its 1A and 2A soccer state playoff brackets on Monday morning, all four local teams found their tickets punched to the Big Dance.
Mount Airy, which won a share of the Northwest 1A Conference title and lost just once in the regular season, already knew it would be in the 1A field. And Surry Central, which is a perennial entry out of the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference, could rest comfortably even though it had a bit of a slump in midseason. But North Surry and East Surry still had to wait and see how things shook out before they could be comfortable knowing they’d play more fútbol this fall.
As it turned out, the Greyhounds and the Cardinals didn’t need to worry. Both of them made it into their respective field, although they will both be on the road to open play on Wednesday night.
East Surry, which made the 1A tournament as the 19th seed after finishing third in the NW1A, has one of the best comeback stories in the state after not only missing the playoffs last year, but also suffering through a winless season with just one tie as their only non-loss. Although this year’s Cardinals had to deal with powerhouse teams at both Bishop McGuinness and Mount Airy, East won five matches and a draw this season, and returned to the state playoffs.
East Surry’s Cardinals will face Union Academy (8-9) on Wednesday night in Monroe. The teams are fairly well-matched according to MaxPreps, and the only sure thing is that the Cardinals will win — Union Academy shares that nickname. They are the fourth-place team in the PAC-7 Conference that also features two powerhouse teams in Pine Lake Prep and Community School of Davidson.
The two teams have no common opponents, but Union’s offense is heavily dependent on senior forward Jim Cail, who scored 25 of his team’s 45 goals this season. Fellow senior forward Jacob Wheeler, who has found the back of the net seven times, is the only other UA player with more than three. Tom Dechant and Chris Hunter are the team’s co-leaders in assists, with nine each, and junior Luke Mullen (80 saves, 2.42 GAA) does most of the work in goal.