Last year was an unusual one for Triangle boys soccer. No 4A team made it to the East final. The top 2A teams lost in the first round. The lone N.C. High School Athletic Association state champion – Franklin Academy – had never played in a title game before. Runner-up Lee County, in 3A, had never been there either.
That leads to no clear No. 1 in the preseason top 25, but for now Green Hope will take the top spot. The Falcons return a slew of players from last year’s squad.
Leesville Road (14-5-3) has Luca Menozzi, Grant Nelson and Wesley Dunn returning to the Cap-8 champs.
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Broughton (15-7-3) is led by Abdulle Ibrahim, Sanderson (14-8-4) by Joey Daly and Enloe (12-7-3) by Harry Cooper.
Heritage (10-7-4) will be more balanced with all-conference selections Trevor Berk and Ethan Palomo, among others.
John Autry leads Wake Forest (5-13-4) and Jose Garcia, Ian Pearlswig and Michael Pasca are among those back for Millbrook (7-8-5).
Greater Neuse River 4A
Clayton (17-6) and Jorge Alonso (11 goals) will try to defend their GNRC title. West Johnston (9-11-1) has 16 seniors led by Austin Stephens (14 goals) and Luis Molina (13 goals). Garner’s Lucas Quiroga had 10 goals as a freshman.
Cardinal Gibbons (18-3-1) will have Campbell recruit Jack Donovan and fellow seniors Nelson Zimmerman, Conner Shaw, Danny Gigliotti and Patrick Monahan.
East Chapel Hill (13-5-3) returns Quinn Albrecht (17 goals, nine assists).
Jordan (13-7) will be young this year as Luke Beamer, Leyonne Howell and Garrett Peters lead the way. Northern Durham (12-10) returns Rigo Villalpandal.
Southwest Wake Athletic 4A
SWAC champ Apex (21-2-1) returns all-conference defender Thomas Zygmuntowicz while runner-up Green Hope (16-5-3) brings back almost everyone including defenders Zach Curtis and Griffin Brookshire and midfielder Camden Holbrook. Middle Creek (18-6) has Chris Wallace (17 goals, 13 assists), goalkeeper Cameron Cornwell and defender Eder Montalvo.
Holly Springs goalie Hunter Nordberg, Cary’s Logan Griffin and Quinn Dunphy, Panther Creek’s Archie Filliter (13 assists) and Parker Cross (16 goals) and Athens Drive’s Brice Moltzon (11 goals, 6 assists) will make for a competitive league.
Eastern Carolina 4A/3A
Defending champ J.H. Rose (14-7-2) is led by Roman Galaska (30 goals), C.B. Aycock (17-5-2) by Coe Jordan (13 assists) and Southern Wayne (11-7-4) by Darwin Sure.
Pinecrest (17-4-2) brings back Hayden Smith (10 goals) from last year’s third-round team and Southeastern Conference champs.
Big 8 3A
Chapel Hill (17-3-3) edged Cedar Ridge (13-6-2) for the league title. The Tigers are led by Oliver Reuland and Sam Linker.
Northern Vance (6-14) should improve with Seth Moody (209 saves), Brooks Falkner and Luke Frazier (14 goals each). J.F. Webb is led by Taylor Currin (14 goals), Northwood by goalie Matt Forbes (six goals allowed in 14 games) and Orange by forward Alfredo Rodriguez and goalie Noah Miller.
Big East 3A
Hunt (22-2-1) is headlined by Jose Anguiano (35 goals, 24 assists), Cooper Dean and Kevin Alfaro (19 goals, 11 assists). Fike (13-9) has Myles Cyrus (11 goals, seven assists), Jorday Rodriguez and Oscar Aldava back.
Northern Nash’s Alex Shearin (12 goals, 13 assists) and Southern Nash’s Eric Mendoza and Jose Salgado are among the league’s top players.
Two Rivers 3A
Cleveland (18-4-1) hopes to repeat the league being led by Joseph Martinez (12 goals, nine assists).
Corinth Holders’ Dillon Parker (12 goals, 16 assists) and Adam Landeros (16 goals, 9 assists) lead the offense while Ryan Mills mans the goal. Western Harnett goalie Cameron Berg had 197 stops.
The top returning scorers for Lee County (25-4-1) are James Arellano (12 goals, 10 assists), Osciel Dominguez (11 goals, nine assists) and Jonathan Baines (12 goals). Southern Lee (13-6-4) got to the third round behind Lucas Cannady and Tony Chavez. Union Pines’ Tristan Kissel had 169 saves.
Eastern Plains 2A
North Johnston (25-5-1) is led by star senior Ian Walston, who had 42 goals and 32 assists en route to All-Metro honors. Tyler Jackson (21 goals, eight assists)
North Pitt (13-4-1) is led by Alan Federico (10 goals, 12 assists) and Homero Alanzo (12 goals).
Northern Carolina 2A
N.C. School of Science and Math (13-1-4) was upended in the first round but returns goalkeeper Stephen Allen.
Durham School of the Arts (14-6-2) was runner-up behind Jarrad Borg’s 15 goals. Bunn’s Brian Husinko had 15 goals, six assists for the 15-5-1 Wildcats. Southern Vance’s Bladimir Labra (30 goals, nine assists) was the top goal scorer. Teammate Luis Amaya-Villa had 13 goals, 14 assists.
Mid-State 2A champ Carrboro (10-5-4) was stunned in the first round but returns 21 players. Jordan-Matthews (17-3-2) returns 15 players from last year’s fourth-round team.
Goldsboro (11-10), which was in a four-way tie for first in the Eastern Carolina 2A, brings back goalkeeper Chandler Patrick (162 saves). Teammate Ruben Quiroz had 20 goals and Michael Eovine had 16.
North Central Athletic 1A
State champ Franklin Academy (22-1-2) will be led by Zach Hanson (23 goals, 21 assists) and Ben Voorhis (149 saves).
Raleigh Charter (17-6) returns nine starters including UNC-Asheville commit Bashirr Morray (23 goals, seven assists) and returning all-region players Chris DiSerafino and Noah Ontjes (14 goals, 12 assists).
Research Triangle (16-6-1) is led by Travis Barker (10 goals), East Wake Academy by Bruce Campos (eight goals, 15 assists) and Woods Charter by Fleet Morgan (21 goals, nine assists).
Granville Central’s Edilson Perez had 21 goals and 11 assists for the 14-4-1 Tar-Roanoke champs. Jose Briones allowed just 1.0 goals per game.
Rosewood (17-6-1) advanced to the fourth round and returns Stalen Massengill (11 goals) and Daniel Alberto (15 assists). Spring Creek (9-14), which made a run to the third round, is led by sophomore Gustavo Avalos (21 goals).
Co-Central Tar Heel champ North Moore (13-5-1) brings back 16 players.
Ravenscroft (15-3-2), led by Emmanuel Petrov (12 goals), edged North Raleigh Christian (12-7-2) for the TISAC title and both were eliminated in the 3A semis. The Ravens also return Thompson Schollaert (9 goals) and John Daniel Sawyer (5 goals). NRCA brings back William Welch (12 goals, 6 assists).
St. David’s senior Joe Keys is back from the 2A all-state team.
Wayne Country Day (21-2-1) won the 1A title over Oakwood School (14-3) and returns three all-state juniors: Hunter Bryson, Benjamin Cohen and Luis Lopez. Neuse Christian’s Braden Teller (31 goals, 16 assists), Cape Fear Christian’s Josh Gilliam and Greenfield School’s Logan Johnson and James Wells return from the 1A all-state squad.
Friendship Christian (19-3) captured the N.C. Christian Schools Association 2A championship and returns Riley Smith and Garrett Huskey. Greenville Christian’s Tyler House had 16 goals and eight assists.
Preseason top 25
1. Green Hope
2. Lee County
3. Leesville Road
5. Cardinal Gibbons
7. East Chapel Hill
8. Chapel Hill
9. Middle Creek
12. Franklin Academy
17. North Johnston
20. Raleigh Charter
21. Holly Springs
23. North Raleigh Christian
24. C.B. Aycock
25. N.C. School of Science & Math