Blue Ridge Early College varsity soccer team wrapped up their season after a loss to Bishop McGuiness in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s state playoffs on Nov. 3.
The Bobcats hosted Swain County in round 1 of the playoffs and fought for a hard-earned 2-1 victory. In addition to a second-round playoff run, BREC tied Highlands for first place in conference with a 12-1-1 record, 13-4-1 overall.
BREC Coach Nick Pressler said it was a team effort, with everyone playing unselfish and disciplined soccer.
“If I am being honest, this team is one of my favorites of all time,” he said. “Not because of their success, but because of the way they came together and worked toward a common goal. I coach because I love the game and love these kids. This group made it very easy for me to do both.”
Pressler said they had several goal scorers this season (not just 2-3) who accumulated 68 total goals. The Bobcat defense and goalkeeper only allowed 5 goals in conference play and recorded 9 shutouts in 14 games.
“I don’t measure this program’s success by wins and losses,” said Pressler. “I measure it by the number of productive young men that leave this program and go on to do bigger and better things. Soccer is temporary. The life lessons and the memories made as a BREC Bobcat soccer player are forever.”
BREC loses seniors Junior Diaz and Ashtin Zachary, but Pressler said they have several new players joining the team next year and the future for the Bobcats is looking good.
Several BREC players were recognized for their performance throughout the season, including Smoky Mountain Conference Player of the Year Gustavo Garcia, and All-Stars (and brothers) Junior Diaz and Jeysson Diaz.
Pressler was recognized as SMC Coach of the Year, along with Highlands Coach Caleb Brown.
The Bobcats had several big wins throughout their championship season. One game that was rather climactic was when BREC hosted Cherokee in early September 2022.
Cherokee was up 1-0 throughout the majority of the game with BREC firing shot after shot on goal without success. With the game on the line during the final quarter, BREC Jeysson Diaz puts a shot into the back of Cherokee’s net tying the game and sending it to overtime.
Within the first minute of OT, Diaz scored again. The Bobcats maintain this lead throughout OT until the last seconds when BREC scored one final time sealing the win.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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