Erick Suarez didn’t go far to find success as a college soccer player.
Suarez, a former Myers Park High star, went just around the corner to Queens, where he is playing a key role in the Royals’ transition this season from Conference Carolinas to the South Atlantic Conference.
“One of the reasons why I chose Queens was so my family wouldn’t have to travel to watch me play,” said Suarez, a sophomore forward who has seven goals and two assists for the Royals (6-1). “We love this city and this is where I wanted to stay and try to excel as a player.”
Suarez left Myers Park as one of the Mustangs’ all-time great players, helping the team to two consecutive appearances in the N.C. 4A championship game and being named the Southwestern 4A’s player of the year twice.
He made an immediate impact at Queens, scoring six goals in 2012. He was the Conference Carolinas freshman of the year.
Now, with Queens moving to the SAC, Suarez has taken his game to a different level. He already had a three-goal game against Brevard last Sunday and had two more goals in a 3-0 victory against Mount Olive, an old Conference Carolinas rival.
“We knew Erick was going to be a key player for us,” said Royals coach Oliver Carias. “He had a nice season last year, but we had high expectations for him this year. He’s met them, both on and off the field. He’s really taken a leadership role for us, as well. It’s natural for him.”
There is one difference for Suarez this season: he’s playing without twin brother Diego, a defender who came to Queens with him from Myers Park. After also playing for the Royals last season, Diego is taking this year off to work at a law firm. He hopes to transfer to a Division I school to pursue a law degree and play soccer.
Erick Suarez has received plenty of help this season. Senior Thiago Andrade led the team in scoring last season and has five goals this year. Senior Felipe Netto also has five goals and scored the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime victory against Anderson on Wednesday. Goalkeeper Montrell Morgan has three shutouts and a .96 goals-against average.
Next up for the Royals, who are ranked ninth in the southeast by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is a game Saturday at the Queens Sports Complex on Tyvola Road against Coker. The Cobras, ranked fifth in the region, came to the SAC with Queens from Conference Carolinas. The Royals (3-0 in the conference) and Cobras (2-0-1) occupy the top two spots in their new league’s standings.
“This new conference is tough, pretty brutal,” said Carias of the SAC, which includes schools such as Lenoir-Rhyne, Catawba and Wingate. “It’s very competitive for us and we’re going to have to keep our level of play as high as possible.”
• The Charlotte 49ers’ men play their Conference USA home opener at 7p.m. Friday at Transamerica Field against South Carolina.
Charlotte (4-2-1, 0-0-1) is led by junior forward Guiseppe Gentile’s four goals. Luke Waechter and Kyle Parker have scored twice for the 49ers, who tied Alabama-Birmingham 0-0-in their first C-USA game.
This is the C-USA opener for South Carolina (2-4-2), which is an associate member in the league in soccer. South Carolina leads the series 14-5-3, with Charlotte winning last season’s game in 3-2 in double overtime.
Charlotte’s women open C-USA play with two road games this weekend. The 49ers (5-3) are at Florida International on Friday, then play at East Carolina on Sunday.
• The unbeaten Winthrop men are among the surprise teams in the Carolinas. The Eagles (6-0-1) have won four in a row and play their Big South opener at Virginia Military on Saturday. Freshman striker Max Hasenstab (Idstein, Germany) leads the Eagles with four goals and four assists and scored the game winner in the 89th minute in a 1-0 victory against UNC Greensboro on Wednesday.
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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