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Athens Drive soccer off to strong start

Athens Drive men's soccer team in a huddle.

Athens Drive men's soccer team in a huddle.

Athens Drive men's soccer team in a huddle.

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The Athens Drive Magnet High School men’s soccer team has kicked off the season in the 26 spot of the NC Class 4A soccer standings. The team has climbed to this position with four wins, biggest wins being against Wake Field, 7-1, and Fuquay-Varina, 3-0.

The team consists of a wide range of ages with 15 upperclassmen and six underclassmen.

“The thing I like most would have to be the amount of banter within the team, and all the joking around,” said Julian Viljoen, junior.

With a veteran team composed mainly of upperclassmen who are into their second and third years, the soccer team comes in with lots of experience. The current squad has taken some big steps forward in the offseason with the development of returning players and the introduction of new ones.

“This is a talented, committed group of players — and because they are, we have some things to prove this season. But we have been working hard and improving each week, so I expect good things,” said Jeff Nelson, coach.

At this point in last year’s season, the win percentage was 42 percent. The team has rebounded this year to 63 percent, and has already picked up wins against high schools, who had beaten Athens the previous year.

“The only goal we have set for the first half of the season is to compete and play our game for 80 minutes, every game with focus and toughness,” said Nelson.

Furthermore, the squad averages 3.1 goals per match and 2.7 assists per match, both surpassing the national average of 2.9 goals and 2.3 assists per game. This feat has not been achieved in recent years.

“We want to have a fast-paced, attacking style of play that is fun to watch.  But we also understand, that to win consistently in a competitive conference requires a tenacious defense capable of destroying opponent’s attacks. We are not there yet on either attack or defense, but that’s the vision and everyone is committed,” said Nelson.

Some standout players leading this turnaround are seniors Brian Chetwynd and Dylan Glickman along with freshman, Sam Sinigur. Chetwynd and Glickman are into their second seasons on the varsity team and are both having breakout years. Chetwynd has scored four goals and assisted six in five games, while Glickman has accumulated two goals and three assists in three games. Sinigur  has scored five goals and an assist in five games.

Chetwynd and Glickman both have either scored or assisted in every game and Sinigur has scored in all of his appearances on the field. All three players had their best statistical game Aug. 30, when Athens defeated East Wake 7-1.

“My mindset going into games is determined, only wanting a win for my team and doing everything to make it happen,” said Viljoen.

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Athens Drive soccer off to strong start