The Owen Warlassies found the back of the net early and often in a 5-1 win at home over Veritas Christian Academy March 6.
The victory was the team's second of the young season, in which the Warlassies outscored their opponents 19-3 through the first five games of the season. As an influx of young talent learns to play in a system powered by a core group of seniors, the team’s best soccer could be ahead.
Head coach David Fiest, entering his ninth season, places an emphasis on playing within a system. His oldest players have been learning that system for four years now.
“We have eight seniors, and they’ve been playing in our program for awhile,” he said. “They know the system, and they’re very good extensions of the coaching staff because they understand what needs to be done on the field and how it needs to be done.”
The Warlassies battled injuries last year, going 6-13-1 before losing in the opening round of the playoffs to state champion contender Newton-Conover. The experience, however, helped seniors like Amber Moss, Abby Lehman, Lindsey Slone and Jenny Morales learn to work Fiest’s system under pressure.
The trick this season is to get that group of seniors to meld the kind of chemistry they've developed over the years with a group of young players playing in the team's attacking third. Two of those players, freshmen Camryn Bolick and Mikayla Roseman, were at times unstoppable against Veritas. They've been key contributors on the field, where freshmen players accounted for eight of the team's first 12 goals of the season.
"They're both very complete players," Fiest said of the freshman duo. "They're dynamic, they're creative and they both have very high soccer IQs already. They just have fun."
Bolick possesses uncanny footwork, especially for a young player, according to Fiest. Her ability to control the ball complements her vision on the field; her precision passing allows her to put the ball in spots where teammates are heading. Bolick's ability to set up those around her has made her and Roseman a promising one-two punch for Owen.
"We've always had a chemistry," Bolick said of of Roseman, who she's known since the second grade. "Being good friends and soccer players who play together it makes it easier to know what each other is thinking on the field."
Roseman, who Fiest calls "a dangerous, attack-minded player," benefits from Bolick's sense of the field. Her relationship with Bolick has helped her transition into unfamiliar territory in the sport she's been playing since she was in primary school.
"This is my first time playing school soccer," said Bolick, who started playing for Asheville-Buncombe Youth Soccer Association's Highland Football Club when she was nine.
In goal for the Warlassies this season is the team's leading scorer from a year ago, sophomore C.J. Graham.
"Last year we had a keeper already in place," Fiest said. "That gave us the flexibility to put (Graham) in the field. She was very good for us last year."
Graham, a rangy, athletic presence in front of the net, is another gifted player. Having begun playing when she was 5, she converted to goalkeeper in the sixth grade and now plays soccer for the Carolina Elite Soccer Academy travel team in Greenville, South Caolina when she's not playing for her school.
Fiest believes he has all the right ingredients to cook up a winning season this season. The key will be getting the young players and veteran players on the same page.
"We have almost a perfect balance," he said. "I think we have the recipe to pull off some big upsets and make a deep run in the state playoffs, and potentially win our conference."