Chapel Hill: Sports

Soccer ‘14: Wildcats returning experienced players

Despite the graduation of three all-conference players off last year’s East Chapel Hill soccer team, the Wildcats have enough talent back that coach Austin Collins beelieves he might need to rethink his starting lineup.

N.C. Coaches Association all-region player Michael Balog and East teammates Zach Lee and Jeffrey Balog – all three of them also all-PAC-6 honorees – have graduated, but eight other starters are returning to East from last year’s conference runners-up (8-7-3).

“We have added a player who was out due to injury last season, senior Michael Krantz, and we have also added Steven Valencia, a senior transfer student from New Jersey,” Collins said recently. “So the starting line up will be shuffled a bit.”

It’s a pleasant problem to have for a team that suffered through growing pains last season. Heading into 2013, East Chapel Hill had 11 juniors on its roster, and only three of those had varsity playing experience. This year’s roster features 13 seniors and six juniors.

“We have around 18 players returning with varsity experience,” Collins said. “If this team can balance effective offense with good defense, then they can be successful.”

The Wildcats expect to contend again with perennial favorite Jordan for this year’s PAC-6 title. After tying the Falcons for the 2011 title and winning it outright in 2012, East finished last year at 5-3-0 in league play, second behind Jordan (16-3-3, 8-0-0).