The North Central Athletic Conference recently released its fall sports All-Conference selections and four East Wake Academy student-athletes took home honors.
Eagles named to the list are senior Nate Pritchard (soccer), juniors Nate Figueroa (soccer) and Julie Thomas (cross country), and sophomore McKenzie Alford (volleyball).
Pritchard, a defensive midfielder, was asked to fill several roles as the soccer team was plagued with injuries this season.
“I challenged him early in the season to focus on working for a chance to play up top after playing defense the past three years,” said head coach Michael Sloop. “He has the strongest leg on the team and really used that to his advantage this year and ended up leading us in goals with 11. His All-Conference spot was well deserved and a great way to end his four-year career.”
Pritchard also finished second on the team in assists with four. “He was outstanding on set pieces for us,” Sloop added. “Most important, he really came into his own as a leader throughout the season.”
Joining Pritchard on the First Team All-NCAC was Figueroa, who was tabbed the conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year.
Figueroa was a busy man between the posts this season while often playing as part of a depleted roster. He stopped an impressive 282 shots while playing all but 7 of a possible 1,760 minutes in goal.
Figueroa’s save total was tops in the NCAC and second in the entire state for 1A schools.
“His presence in goal kept us in a lot of close games this year,” Sloop said.
Figueroa also posted six shutouts and saved two penalty kicks this season.
“Nate trained with top-level goalie coaches all offseason and I really think he took all of that work and just continued to get better all season long,” Sloop said. “There were just moments where you stood back and said, ‘Wow,’ on some of his saves.”
Figueroa is the first East Wake Academy player – on either the boys or girls side – to be named the league’s top goalkeeper.
Thomas was tabbed All Conference by the NCAC coaches after overcoming injuries sustained in a jet ski accident early in the season, returning to the team and running form late in the season.
“Julie showed tremendous strength and wherewithal to come back and run at all this year for us,” said head coach Brad Bowman. “She’s got a special something in her to battle back and work her way back into our top five … very proud of her.”
Thomas is a two-year runner on the varsity cross country team.
Alford played a large part in the Eagles securing their first-ever bid to the NCHSAA 1A state volleyball playoffs behind a 12-11 record.
The sophomore led the team kills (103), aces (93), ace percentage (.37), hitting percentage (.302), points (161) and blocks (33). Her totals in kills (10th), aces (4th), hitting percentage (3rd), and blocks (6th) were among the NCAC leaders.
“Mackenzie was great for us all year,” said first-year coach Kenly Simmons. “She had moments where she just took over in matches and carried us to victory, especially serving. We’re very glad we’ll have her back for a few more years.”