This was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year for the Fayetteville Academy boys’ soccer, with a team filled with young players lacking experience.
So much for lowered expectations. When the seeds for this year’s N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2-A state playoffs were announced, Fayetteville Academy was put at the No. 1 spot with a 15-1-1 record. That mark included a penalty shootout loss to public school power Lee County and a tie with North Raleigh Christian.
This story was written before the Eagles began postseason competition. By the time it’s published, they’ll hopefully be preparing to advance to the semifinal round of the state tournament.
Regardless of what happens in the postseason, it’s been another banner year for the Eagles, the result of a familiar formula put together by veteran coach Andrew McCarthy.
“We always play a tough schedule,’’ he said. “We always want to challenge the boys. They’ve been a very committed group every day at practice.
“We’ve stressed getting better every game and every practice. We’ve had a few bumps along the way, a few performances that haven’t been as good, but overall they’ve been doing what we’ve asked of them.’’
An area where the Eagles have been solid is defense. In 14 of their 17 regular-season matches, Fayetteville Academy has allowed one goal or less.
“It’s not just the back line and the keeper,’’ McCarthy said. “You defend from the front. It’s a team effort by the defenders, and the keeper has been fantastic.’’
The keeper is Carter Boliek, a senior who took up the position three years ago. “The only thing holding him back was game experience,’’ McCarthy said. “He had all the talent. He’s come up with big saves in big games. If you have a good goalkeeper, you’ve got a good chance.’’
Boliek said the focus of the Eagle defense has been working hard as a unit and making it harder for the opposition to score.
“I think everyone on our team has improved exponentially,’’ he said. “We’ve come together and gelled well. That’s led to a lot of team success.’’
Center back Julian Barbaro credits the good coaching the Eagles get from McCarthy and assistant coach Jimmy Maher. “We’ve all been pretty positive and stayed together,’’ he said. “We’ve spent countless hours on and off the field, talking, staying tougher and helping each other out.’’
It’s been four years since Fayetteville Academy brought a state soccer title home. McCarthy said the formula for doing it again remains the same.
“Hopefully we’re well-prepared,’’ he said. “We know the game plan going in, and we do what we need to do.’’
PHOTO: L-R: Julian Barbaro, Andrew McCarthy, Carter Boliek