Forbush’s girls soccer team didn’t take home the biggest prize from the 2A state playoffs, but the Falcons did cart off a lot of hardware for their 2009 efforts.
Coach Kenan James’ team won the Mountain Valley 2A Conference for the third year in a row, and the fifth time in school history. The Falcons claimed a second straight 2A West Region trophy to go with their second-straight state runner-up honor.
Sophomore Jessica Baity was voted the MVAC’s Player of the Year. She beat her old single-season school record of 35 goals (set last spring) by booting 38 this season.
Other all-conference players from Forbush included Katelynd Caudle, Kayla Cline, Lindsey Lineberry, Krystle Matthews and Leticia Patino. Making honorable mention all-conference from Forbush were Cari Beck, Bailey Stinson and Jessica Tucker. All will be back next year.
James was voted conference coach of the year.
Baity went on to be the top vote-getter in the all-Region 9 balloting. The Region 9 honors list for Class 2A features schools from the Mountain Valley and Catawba Valley conferences (Hibriten, one of the teams that Forbush beat in the state playoffs, is in the Catawba Valley).
Baity capped her season off by being voted to the 2A all-state team for the second year in a row.
Patino, Caudle, Lineberry and Matthews also collected all-region recognition. Cline and Beck were honorable mention all-region.
In addition to MVAC coach of the year, James was voted the Region 9 coach of the year and the 2A coach of the year — the ultimate triumvirate of awards for a coach. His assistant, Jamie Reavis, was voted the Region 9 assistant coach of the year.
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It has become a right of spring to have a Forbush team somewhere in a state championship event.
The Falcons’ softball program won state titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The baseball team played in the 2A state championship series in Greensboro in 2006. The past two seasons, the soccer team has been in the state final at NC State (not to mention track and golf athletes who have made the state championships).
Forbush fans must be accustomed to the travel for these big games because the soccer team had a strong and loud following in Raleigh on Saturday. James said his players recognized that and appreciated the support.
“They were dedicated and enthusiastic all season but especially in the championship game,” the coach said. “It was a sea of red on the West side and Swansboro’s cheers and chants were often drowned out by our rowdy fans.
“Our fans played a big part in our run through the playoffs. They were the 12th woman against Shelby and Hibriten (home playoff games). We fed off of their energy. Also, along those same lines, our school did a pep rally for us on Friday. That meant a lot to the girls and it gave them a boost going into Saturday.“
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If you went to a home game at Forbush this season, you likely noticed a group of younger girls buzzing around the perimeter of the field shagging balls, performing other game-day tasks and just generally enjoying being close to the action.
These girls represent the future of the Falcons’ program. Many play for club teams coached by James and others in the community. They often come to games with their club jerseys on — much like current Forbush players did when they were working their way through the elementary school ranks.
James took over as Forbush’s head coach in 2000 after being an assistant for two seasons. One of his first tasks was to establish strong feeder programs for the high school. Many of the current Falcons trace their roots back to those club teams.
“This group in particular I’ve worked with since they were about 10 years old,” James said. “That’s how we’ve done it and we’ll continue to do that. It’s huge. They are comfortable with each other and they play hard for each other. They know where each other is going to be, and just the camaraderie and teamwork — they enjoy being together.
“It’s really invaluable. I don’t know how many teams truly have that situation. We’re fortunate.”
Jessica Baity said she and teammates talked about their long history together before the state championship match.
“A lot of these girls have been playing together since we were six or seven years old,” she said. “This is a huge team in the making, and we’re excited about what next year is going to bring as well.”
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Though a lot can happen over the next nine months, it’s hard not to peg Forbush as a state title contender for 2010. The Falcons are slated to return every starter and the roster will be buoyed by the arrival of some talented freshman.
Forbush will play in a different conference in 2009-10, but one that will keep the rivalry going with three-time conference runner-up Wilkes Central. Starmount will remain in Forbush’s league, while 1A Elkin, East Wilkes and West Wilkes will join it.
The Buckin’ Elks were 17-3 this season, winning a share of the Northwest 1A title. Coach Joe McCulloch’s club will return prolific scorer Madison Spagnoletti (29 goals, 16 assists), so that could be another rivalry to watch, though those two teams will be in different classifications once the playoffs start.
Elkin and Forbush were slated to play at the start of this season, but bad weather cancelled the game.
“Forbush is as good as advertised,” Swansboro coach Doug Kidd said after seeing the Falcons for the first time. “The thing that is scary about them is that they are young. I expect to see them back next year. Hopefully we can make it back.
“They are as good as everybody else we’ve seen. They are very solid and organized defensively. I was impressed with them. Kenan does an excellent job coaching them — he’s put Forbush on the map in my opinion.”