Hampton sees progress on the soccer pitch

Published 11:01 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

The Hampton soccer team had 14 players last season.
This year, Hampton has 21 ‘Dogs ready to storm onto the soccer pitch, and it is that type of progression that has Hampton head coach Andy O’Neil excited.
Last week, the Bulldogs faced off with Elizabethton and ended up falling 3-2 to the Cyclones. Last season, when the two teams played, EHS won 12-0.
“For a majority of the game, we were 2-1 in front,” said O’Neil. “We are making strides. To me, it doesn’t matter if the boy win, lose, or draw. The program is a success.”
From Liverpool in the United Kingdom, O’Neil, at the age of 16, began playing semi-professional soccer overseas until he was 21 when he developed shin splints in both legs and could not play competitively. O’Neil would go on to coach youth soccer in the UK before playing in pub leagues.
“I have always had some kind of involvement in soccer,” O’Neil said.
Since O’Neil has been in the United States, he said that soccer has grown in popularity. Carter County now has three soccer programs at Elizabethton, Hampton, and Happy Valley.
“It has increased ten fold since I have been here,” O’Neil said. “Carter County schools have identified a need for soccer. It is nice to have the backing of schools director, Dr. (Kevin) Ward.”
For many players who join the Hampton soccer team, they are starting from scratch when learning the game. O’Neil said it hard to train someone in soccer when they don’t have any background in the sport. However, the team has been able to move to more advanced game plans this year.
“We went to games last year in a basic 4-4-2,” O’Neil said. “I had taught the boys the basic formation. This year, we have mixed it up. When played Elizabethton we play a diamond shape.
“It’s starting to click,” O’Neil added. “It is almost like someone has flicked a light switch.”
The leaders on the team are Blake Gentry and Andy Bailey.
“Those two have been involved with me since day one,” said O’Neil. “Those two are the most technically gifted players that we have. That is why we made them captain and co-captain.”
Filling at the goal position for the Bulldogs is Dakota Sanchez, while Macon Baroen, Calvin Corner, Jesse Smith, and Garrett Freeman play defense in the backfield.
Working up front as attackers are Jose Velazquez and Jaydon Livingston.
Holding down midfield are Jacob Crook, John Dula, Bailey, and Gentry.
Coach O’Neil is helped by assistant coach Warren Ballagh from Australia.
This Thursday, Hampton will travel over to University High to face off with the Jr. Buccaneers.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox