Green Hope has had an incredible decade, making it to the state boys soccer semifinals eight times, including 2013.
What might make that run even more impressive is that half of those eight appearances have come when the team has finished second or lower in its own conference.
The Falcons (22-3) return as 4A East runners-up, and once again they’re geared to make a deep postseason run. Green Hope will miss some senior captains, but the team brings back a strong senior class.
Midfielder Owen Jeffs is a three-year starter. Then there are other seniors like Montana Crowder, Rishi Sharma, Owen Foster and Jake Wallin who played extensively last year. Junior Zach Doernberg is a standout defender.
Apex (16-5) lost twice on the field (three games were later forfeited) and won the Wake County Cup. The team lost in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
While the Cougars lost a great group of 11 seniors, it would be remiss to doubt the 13 who are returning. Senior forward Jake Grieco is one of the team’s top returning scorers, and defender Nicholas Madrid is one of the league’s best.
Fuquay-Varina (13-8-3) returns about eight players, including goalkeeper Austin Mullins, midfielder Collin Morrison and defenders Cole Slater and Brian Meija.
Holly Springs (11-9-3), which took fourth in the SWAC, loses 11 varsity players but returns 14. Midfielder Aaron Latigue (6 goals, 8 assists), a senior who was deadly on free kicks, returns as well as center backs Addison Faw and Luke Gazak.
Panther Creek (8-11-2), which was the fifth and final SWAC team to make the postseason, returns the bulk of its team. Senior Sam Conrad was a first-team all-conference defender. Also coming back are junior center back Artem Minin, junior midfielder Spencer Saunders, senior midfielder Dillon Crowley, senior midfielder Mat Thomas and sophomore striker Archie Filliter.
Middle Creek (8-11-1) will make a playoff push with senior Chris Gottberg (7 goals, 2 assists).
Athens Drive (8-12-3), under new coach and current Carolina RailHawks player Uriah Bentick, will have 13 seniors this year. Juniors Nathan Foster (4 goals, 3 assists) and Quinn Garrett (4 goals, 1 assist) are the leading returning scorers.
Cary (5-14-1) won its final three games last year, foiling the playoff chances of Middle Creek and Athens Drive and handing Fuquay an upset. The Imps graduated just four players from a year ago and return first-team all-conference goalkeeper Johannes Dietrich.