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Eagles relish underdog label

Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011 by Adam Thompson, New Bern Sun Journal

Eagles relish underdog label

West Craven's Sue Rocham dribbles the ball through South Lenoir players during its annual soccer jamboree on Aug. 9. Rocham is one of seven returning seniors for the Eagles.

August 17, 2011 3:22 PM

Sun Journal staff

VANCEBORO — West Craven soccer coach Aaron Steele loves being labeled the underdog.

With the school’s all-time leading scorer, Jaime Cortes, gone, Steele thinks opponents may look past the Eagles.

That’s just fine with him.

West Craven returns seven seniors and four juniors from last year’s squad that went 15-5-4 and advanced to the second round of the 3-A state playoffs.

“I think everyone is kind of counting us out,” Steele said. “I want them to make a name for them self and stand out. I think we can work well together and still make a run at conference.”

Cortes, who scored 50 goals last season, provided most of the offense for West Craven. However, the Eagles have three first-team members of the 2010 All-sun Journal team back — junior Lamberto Gomez, senior Antonio “Renaldo” Lewis and senior Sue Rocham.

“We have got to move forward, said Lewis. “When we started practice, I kept wondering where (Jaime) was at because I was so used to playing with him. We just have to come out and try our hardest.”

The Eagles also lost forward Joe Valdez and goalkeeper Sam Mitchell.

The biggest thing for Steele and the rest of his West Craven squad is to get back to the basics and build some cohesion within the team.

“We don’t have an exceptional player up top anymore,” Steele said. “I like to try to rebuild, as far as fundamentals. We’ve played games without Jaime and we won. We are hoping to build on that and find the missing pieces, so we can put it all together.”

Gomez, a midfielder, showed glimpses of brilliance last season, scoring 17 goals and dishing out 32 assists. In two varsity seasons, he has 38 goals and 46 assists.

“I have to step up more, run up and down the field, distribute the ball and try to get us in scoring situations to help us win the game,” Gomez said.

Lewis, a forward/midfielder, netted three goals to go along with six assists. He also played a stellar role on defense.

Rocham will also play a key role at midfield. Last season he piled up eight goals and four assists.

Senior Mike Cauley is the leader on defense, which Steele believes will be the strength of the team.

“Mike Cauley is a very good defender. I think he is a standout in our conference,” Steele said. “Renaldo is a big boost to our midfield and our attack. We are hoping to build on them and have the other seniors step up.”

Joining Cauley in the back will be senior Nick Mitchell, senior Fredi Ramirez, senior Chris Cope, senior Steven Ridenour and junior Joseph Lockhart.

Looking to make an impact on offense will be junior Ngen Rahlan, sophomore Y’Piong Nay, freshman Jose Lopez, freshman Christian Wetherington, freshman Dalton Williams, freshman Josh Chittuck, freshman Pablo Ramirez, freshman Caleb Lockhart and freshman Fernando Labra.

Junior Jesus Munoz will be the Eagles’ new goalkeeper.

“I’m hoping defense is our strength,” Steele said. “I’m hoping that we have a very formidable attack and that we build on our depth.”

Last season, the Eagles finished third in the Coastal 3-A Conference. They knocked off South Johnston, 2-0, in the first round of the playoffs before losing to Wilson Hunt.

The Eagles are hoping to continue their success into this season. They host Kinston on Thursday.

“We have to work a little more with our freshmen because they have to get used to high school soccer,” Gomez. “I think if they keep getting better and we teach them, we should be pretty good.”

Adam Thompson can be reached at 252-635-5670 or at athompson@freedomenc.com.

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