Watauga's soccer team hosts Hickory
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The Pioneers, 9-0 overall, 2-0 in the Northwestern Conference, face their biggest challenge Monday night when they host NWC power Hickory at Jack Groce Stadium.
Hickory visits Watauga as somewhat of a mystery. The Red Tornadoes go into Monday's game with an uncharacteristic 3-4-3 overall record and 0-1-1 in the NWC.
Hickory tied rival NWC power St. Stephens 2-2 on Sept. 9 and then lost to Fred T. Foard 2-1 two days later.
Hickory also lost 5-0 to Charlotte power Garinger on Aug. 22, but also beat a solid A.C. Reynolds team 3-0.
Watauga coach Woody McKay is not buying into the idea that Hickory will be an easy mark on Monday.
"They won the conference every year I've been in it," McKay said. "They're well coached and they get quality players from the Hickory club program, which they share with St. Stephens."
Watauga shocked Hickory 3-1 at Jack Groce Stadium last season. The Pioneers held a 2-1 lead when Hickory had its goalkeeper join the offensive attack in the final minute. Watauga worked the ball behind the Hickory offense and Alex Parsons scored a breakaway goal to ice the game. Later in the season, Hickory beat the Pioneers 3-2, but Watauga's win over the Red Tornadoes was the only loss Hickory suffered during the regular season.
Hickory went on to finish 27-2 and reached the state 3-A finals before falling 2-1 to Jacksonville in the championship game.
McKay did not know much about Hickory's players. Instead, he will make adjustments during the game when needed.
"There aren't many plays, so to speak, and it doesn't take very long to see who the good players are," McKay said. "Some coaches may (scout) a little more, but I never found it helpful."
The Red Tornadoes may want to keep an eye on Watauga's Tucker Chasteen, who has scored 13 goals this season. Watauga can also turn to Logan Raichle and Canyon Mueller for offense.
But the Pioneers have not scored more than two goals in their last four games after scoring at least three games in their first five.
Defensively, the Pioneers, led by goalkeeper Jake Chasteen, has given up two goals in just one game. The Pioneers have shut out five teams and allowed one goal in four other games.