A topsy-turvy season in SPC boys soccer
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Monday, Oct. 28, 2013

A topsy-turvy season in SPC boys soccer

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- JOE HABINA
Northwest Cabarrus’ Jordy Ramirez, left, dribbles through some Hickory Ridge defenders during a South Piedmont 3A match Oct. 24 at Northwest Cabarrus.
  • Want to keep track? Follow how the South Piedmont 3A and other area teams do in the NCHSAA state playoffs at www.nchsaa.org.

How topsy-turvy is the South Piedmont 3A Conference in boys soccer this season?

Here’s one example: The team that had the longest unbeaten streak to start the season, Central Cabarrus, had dropped to sixth place within a month’s time.

But entering the final week of the regular season, the Vikings still had a realistic chance of earning a wild-card berth in the state playoffs, scheduled to start this Wednesday.

Concord and China Grove Carson appeared to have the upper hand going into the SPC’s final week. Four others – Cox Mill, Northwest Cabarrus, Hickory Ridge and Central Cabarrus – were jockeying for positions in the league standings.

Regular-season results proved that any of those top six teams could beat each other on any given night.

“It’s knock ’em, sock ’em,” Hickory Ridge coach Scott Wolfe said. “We kind of expected it to be pretty close. I’m not sure we knew it would be this close.

“We talked earlier in the season with a couple of coaches, and we thought you could put everybody’s name in a hat, and pull one out and see what you get.”

“This conference is a real bang-bang conference,” Hickory Ridge defender Chris Inman said, “You never know what’s going to happen. We had conference title aspirations this year, but it hasn’t worked out because the conference overall is equally level.”

Central Cabarrus started the season as the two-time defending conference champs. With wins over Northwest Cabarrus, East Rowan and South Rowan – and ties with Hickory Ridge and Concord – the Vikings didn’t lose a conference game until the SPC season was nearly a month old.

Since Sept. 8, when most of the teams had played at least four games, all six of those teams at some point had held either first or second place in the conference standings. Conversely, four of those teams have been in fifth or sixth place in that same time frame.

At times, the standings were so tight that coaches didn’t know what place their teams held.

“There was one game where we took a loss or a tie and dropped from second to sixth on a half-game difference,” Wolfe said. “But there was another time we went from fifth to second place with a win one night.”

The unpredictability is fostered by the successes and failures teams have against one another. For example, Concord has been in first place for most of the season, but two of the Spiders’ three league losses have been to Cox Mill.

So why isn’t Cox Mill the best team in the South Piedmont? Because the Chargers are 0-2 versus Carson and 0-1-1 against Northwest Cabarrus.

Carson’s kryptonite has been Hickory Ridge, which beat the Cougars twice. The Ragin’ Bulls, however, are a combined 0-5-2 against Concord, Central Cabarrus, Northwest Cabarrus and Cox Mill.

On the contrary, Hickory Ridge was 2-0 against Central Cabarrus last season, when the Vikings won its second straight league title.

Northwest Cabarrus coach Harald Von Klahr knows Concord has a good team, but he has no answers for why his Trojans had a couple of near misses against the Spiders.

In their first meeting, Northwest took a 3-1 lead before losing 4-3 in overtime. Their rematch was also a one-goal game, 2-1 in Concord’s favor.

“It’s hard to say why we didn’t lose to Cox Mill, but we couldn’t beat Concord, and Cox Mill beat Concord twice,” Von Klahr said. “It’s not apparent that Cox Mill plays a different style than what we do.”

The state playoffs will determine whether the soccer in Cabarrus County is superior compared to other areas this season or whether balance is the reason for the logjam at the top of the standings.

Hickory Ridge’s Chris Inman thinks he knows the answer.

“We (the teams) can show the South Piedmont Conference is a strong conference,” Inman said. “Even though we (Hickory Ridge) might not be in the top three, you might be surprised and get that wild-card draw. You might get surprised and get beat. Watch out for the South Piedmont Conference.”

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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