Forward breaks out of brother's shadow

For most of his life, Jay M. Robinson forward Uriel Rebollar just wanted to be better than his older brother, Angel, on the soccer field.

From the time he could walk and kick a ball, Uriel could often be found playing soccer, whether it was in his family's front yard or at the park. He and his brother were in constant competition.

"Growing up, Angel has always inspired me to be the best soccer player that I can be," the younger Rebollar said. "Right now, I think he is a little bit better than me because he's playing college soccer (at Bethel University in Tennessee), so I have to keep working on my game."

After playing with his older brother during his freshman year at Robinson, Rebollar, 17, has played his way out of his older brother's shadow in the last two seasons.

The junior's breakout season came last year, when he scored 20 goals and was named All-South Piedmont Conference, all-region and all-state.

This year, Rebollar has become a more complete player, recording 16 goals and 16 assists through the Bulldogs' game against Concord last Wednesday.

Rebollar has joined an elite fraternity of Robinson forwards that reaches back a decade.

Robinson soccer coach Michael Hoke, who has been in charge since the program's inception in 2001, has seen them all - from Erik Turnbolm and all-time leading scorer Will Mayhew to Rebollar and classmate Jason Andrejchak, who had 17 goals heading into this week.

"We have been lucky to have a lot of elite forwards," Hoke said. "But they are all a little different. Uriel is a very well rounded player, who can play anywhere on the field. But I think he is most dangerous up top."

Rebollar's talent is all packed into his 5-foot-4, 120-pound frame, which isn't intimidating until you have to try to cover him.

What he lacks in size, Rebollar makes up with a "bulldog-type" of strength and quickness that is hard to match, said Hoke.

"A lot of guys think they can push him around," the coach said. "But he is actually pretty strong, especially on the ball, and if you can catch him, maybe you have a chance."

Rebollar's is also one of the top players in the area when it comes to free kicks. He already has several goals on set pieces from 25 to 30 yards out.

Against Weddington earlier this year, he netted a free-kick from 30 yards out in the upper corner of the net only to have the referee call it back because he went before the whistle, but 30 seconds later, Rebollar put the ensuing free kick in the lower corner of the same side of the net, leaving the crowd, his teammates and opponents in shock.

"I still practice free kicks every day I can in the park by myself," said Rebollar. "So it doesn't surprise me when I make them."

Rebollar also refines his skills as one of the top players on his club team, the under-17 FC Carolina Alliance squad, where he is coached by UNC Charlotte men's soccer assistant coach Kyle Gookins. Rebollar says he wants to one day play soccer for the 49ers.

For now, Rebollar is focused on using his skills alongside Andrejchak on one of the most potent offenses in the area, as the Bulldogs average nearly four goals per game.

If Robinson (10-5-3, 8-1-1 after last week) wants to finish the season strong with a potential SPC title and more in the playoffs, they will need to play better defense.

"With Jason and Uriel up top, we have two of the best scorers in the state," Hoke said. "So we can score with anyone, but the question is can we stop them?"

Rebollar says he hopes to continue moving between forward and the midfield to put his team in the best position to win.

"For me, it's not all about scoring, all I really care about is winning," Rebollar said. "I don't care what position I play as long as I can help my team win."