HENDERSON — A season of unpredictability for the Kerr-Vance Academy soccer program concluded with a 9-0 loss to Greenfield on Friday evening, leaving their overall record 3-6 on the 2020 season.
While wins total for KVA was down from the Spartans’ 2019 campaign, head coach George Hoyle Jr. said it was a privilege to get the season in with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cause problems in the United States.
“We were absolutely thrilled to get the season in,” Hoyle said. “We had a young team this year, but to have them come in, practice and play games over 11 weeks was fantastic. There were some tough losses along the way, but this was a good opportunity for us to keep building back our program to where it used to be.”
When KVA received approval from the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association to conduct a fall sports season, Hoyle quickly went to work devising a short but strong schedule that ensured his players would get the most out of the current circumstances.
Hoyle had to throw his initial plan away when Rocky Mount Academy, Faith Christian, Halifax Academy, Oakwood and Christ Covenant all elected to postpone their fall sports seasons to the spring, but he managed to contact several different schools about playing KVA in soccer and other sports.
Through a handful of postponements and cancellations due to weather and a COVID-19 scare from an opposing team, KVA contested a nine-game schedule against teams like Neuse Christian Academy, Wayne Country Day and the neighboring Crossroads Christian School, with their only conference matchups taking place against Epiphany.
Although he had his schedule set, the possibility of KVA finishing the season came down to whether or not the team could operate without anyone contracting COVID-19. But Hoyle said that his players more than exceeded expectations when it came to looking after one another.
“There was not one single issue on our end the whole season,” Hoyle said. “We practiced every day and played as often as we could. I told my team that if they wanted to play, they had to be smart by wearing their masks, social distancing when they could and follow[ing] the protocols, which they had to do outside of school as well. I’m thrilled that they had the strength and ability to do those things, otherwise nothing would have worked.”
Hoyle added that the main thing separating the 2020 team from others he has coached was how excited his players were just to participate in practice, which he attributed to them having friends who could not play soccer during the fall plus the general concern surrounding whether or not their season would actually be completed.
While the energy in practice did not always translate over into games, Hoyle saw his players showcase their potential as a unit on multiple occasions. He cited KVA’s 3-1 victory over Epiphany on Oct. 2 as the program’s most complete performance of the year.
Hoyle credited the experienced players on the roster for keeping KVA competitive throughout the year, including the senior class of Joel Lewis, Michael Holtzman and Coleman Merritt, along with juniors Joseph Knott and Chandler Hurt.
While Lewis, Holtzman and Merritt will no longer be a part of the team going forward, Hoyle is optimistic that KVA will continue to grow in soccer with Knott, Hurt and goalkeeper Shane Musselman all returning alongside a solid group of rising sophomores and freshmen.
“The juniors are ready to lead the program,” Hoyle said. “Just about everyone is coming back next year aside from the seniors, so that’s very promising. I’m not going to worry about next year right now, but we should be fine with the group of players we have.”
Hoyle said that the 2020 season for KVA would not have been possible without the assistance of his co-head coach, Tommy Farmer, and he’s looking forward to working with him again following the long offseason.