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Fayetteville Academy Boys' Soccer Plays for State Title


By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Even a global pandemic couldn’t prevent Fayetteville Academy from building on its rich tradition in boys’ soccer.

Saturday at 3 p.m., the Eagles will travel to Westchester Country Day in High Point in search of the school’s 18th boys’ state soccer title and the third in the last four seasons.

COVID-19 cast a shadow on the 2020 season for the Eagles as they were limited to playing 11 games. But after suffering three early losses to 3-A opponents ranked among the best teams in the state, the Eagles strung together seven consecutive victories, including three in the state playoffs that earned them the title shot against Westchester.

Veteran Eagle head coach Andrew McCarthy said once the team adjusted to the protocols required for dealing with the coronavirus, the only real disappointment with the season was the lack of fans at games, as mandated by social distancing regulations. For Saturday's game, each school is allowed 100 fans per N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association rules.

While still having high expectations for his team, McCarthy said he tried to make the season as much fun as possible to take off some of the strain caused by the pandemic.

He thought the 2020 team had potential to fare well in the postseason. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised,’’ he said. “A lot of credit has to go to the kids with the way they’ve applied themselves.”

He particularly praised seniors Scott Fincher and Will Pryzgoda.

Pryzgoda has sacrificed this season by playing slightly out of position on the back line, McCarthy said. Fincher battled some injuries and has worked incredibly hard for the team McCarthy said.

Both players think the Eagles have coped well with playing during the pandemic “I didn’t think we were going to have a season at the beginning of the year,’’ Fincher said. “The only thing that really bothered me was not having any fans until the last two or three weeks.’’

Pryzgoda said staying safe and wearing masks became a concern for everyone in an effort to protect themselves.

Come Saturday, the big concern will be Westchester, a team that the Academy has tangled with frequently in the state playoffs. According to the most recent statewide MaxPreps rankings, Westchester is No. 4 among all private schools in the state while the Academy is No. 15.

Westchester brings a 12-2 record into the title game, suffering its only two losses to the state’s No. 1 ranked team, Calvary Day School. The Eagles, 8-3, lost twice to second-ranked Cape Fear Academy and once to sixth-ranked Coastal Christian.

Westchester is led by midfielder George Culp, who scored both his team’s goals in a 2-1 overtime win against Wayne Country Day in the state semifinals.

Both the Eagles and Westchester have scored 15 goals while giving up only three in the state playoffs.

McCarthy expects the Westchester team to be well organized and tough to beat on its home field, where the team has only lost once this season. Fayetteville Academy only has one road loss this year.

“If we can control the midfield and win first-chance balls out of the air, I think we’ll have a really good chance of winning it all,’’ Fincher said.