Green Hope, Hunt, Bunn and Raleigh Charter are 1-seeds in the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys soccer playoffs, which begin Saturday. The distinction gives them home-field advantage through the first four rounds of the playoffs, and potentially the East final as well.
The NCHSAA’s seeding format has drawn more criticism from Triangle boys soccer coaches than it has in other sports. Many teams in the Triangle are better than their records indicate, and few other areas east of Greensboro other than East Chapel Hill, Jordan and the Wilmington schools can boast teams as good as those in Wake County.
But the NCHSAA seeding does not place teams in the bracket based on anything other than overall record.
“Now, it is basically, of my opinion and of everybody who knows anything about soccer, when you seed 24 of 32 soccer teams based on nothing but overall record, it’s completely unrealistic and unfair,” Leesville Road coach Paul Dinkenor said. “It quite clearly punishes you for playing a good schedule. We played a lot of strong teams like we always do. We played Green Hope, we played Gibbons, we played Panther Creek, and we lost all of them. And we learned a lot from it, but if we had not won our conference we would be one of the bottom seeds from our conference had we made it in.”
Another strong finish for Leesville: It’s rare to repeat the Cap-8 4A Conference title, but the way Leesville Road did it was even more rare. For the second straight year, the Pride started the season slow before playing its best in conference play.
“Last year we started a little bit more strongly, we were about .500 going into conference play, and this year we were 1-4-1,” Dinkenor said. “But I think the main characteristic was our hard work and a sort of complete change in mentality away from the ‘me’ towards the ‘we.’ We really don’t have any major standout players.”
Luca Menozzi has 15 goals to lead the team.
“We won a slew of one-goal games, which is typical in the Cap-8,” he said. “There were a few blowouts, but we never blew anybody out – 3-0 was a blowout for us.”
Toughest first-round matches: The 4A East was loaded with teams from the Cap-8 (sans Leesville Road, because the line between East and Mideast cuts through Raleigh) and Wilmington along with a few other teams with good overall records. The result of that pushed a team like Broughton – which spent about a third of the season ranked No. 1 in The N&O rankings – down to an 11-seed.
Broughton makes the quick trip to Cardinal Gibbons, and Sanderson, seeded 10th, goes to Panther Creek. That means two of the better teams in the area (all four spent most of this season in our top 10) will be gone by the end of the first round.
Fewer rematches: This year’s format uses geography to pit one region (East, Mideast, Midwest and West) against another in the first round, hoping that it will cut down on the most unattractive feature in previous seasons’ seeding formulas: a plethora of first-round conference rematches.
This year’s bracket has three: Roanoke Rapids hosts Franklinton, Leesville Road hosts Enloe and Spring Creek hosts Wayne County rival Rosewood.
That hurts Leesville more than the others. The Pride has played nothing but Cap-8 teams in each of the last two seasons.