BOONE — The Watauga boys’ soccer team hosts Monroe in the first round of the state 3-A playoffs at 6 p.m. Nov. 6 at Jack Groce Stadium.
Watauga goes into the match winners of 13 of its last 14 games. The Pioneers (15-5-1) are the sixth-seed in the bracket, while Monroe (12-10) is seeded 27th. The Redhawks finished sixth in the Southern Carolina Conference, which includes top-seeded Charlotte Catholic and 11th-seeded Marvin Ridge. Cuthbertson, Parkwood and Weddington also made the playoffs from the SCC.
“They are in a tough conference,” Watauga coach Josh Honeycutt said. “They’ll be battle tested with some tough games, so we definitely have to take them seriously and be ready. We can’t take them lightly because they finished low in their conference.”
Monroe goes into the match on a two-game losing streak, having fallen to Catholic and Parkwood. The Redhawks lean on Za’Quavion Wall for scoring. Honeycutt said Wall, a freshman, uses his speed to score goals.
“They’re supposed to be fairly technical in the midfield,” Honeycutt said. “From my understanding, they lack a little shape and form and purpose in the midfield and they’re kind of chaotic.”
Honeycutt is counting on the Pioneers’ defense, which has its share of seniors, to slow Wall down. Honeycutt also wants the Pioneers to continue the possession style of soccer they’ve used all season long.
“We’re very organized and strong in the back,” Honeycutt said. “We don’t concede any goals if possible and if they’re not very good in the back, we have people who can score. Hopefully that plays into our hands.”
It’s been a while since Watauga has even played. The Pioneers had a bye on the final week of the Northwestern Conference season, but Honeycutt isn’t concerned about Watauga’s inactivity.
Watauga won the Northwestern Conference with an 11-1 record, but has not played since Oct. 28 when the Pioneers beat Freedom 3-1. Honeycutt has taken steps to make sure the Pioneers won’t show any rust against the Redhawks.
“We’ve been practicing hard,” Honeycutt said. “We played an intersquad scrimmage against each other, so we’ve got our fitness in. We’re still in good shape. If anything, I think it’s going to be an advantage because we’ve had a little more time to heal and rest up and get ready.”