Mustangs aim for first district title

By PATRICK MacCOON patrick.maccoon@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 3/18/17

Walker Valley soccer will not hang its cleats on last season, instead strive for new program first and records this spring.

After a 12-3 record last season with 67 goals scored and nine shutouts …

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Mustangs aim for first district title

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Walker Valley soccer will not hang its cleats on last season, instead strive for new program first and records this spring.

After a 12-3 record last season with 67 goals scored and nine shutouts posted on defense, a new challenge presents itself for another talented Mustang squad.

“My message to our boys this year is will last year be the best season ever or was it simply the best season yet,” WVHS head coach Tom Bayliss said. “We know what Walker Valley soccer is about now and I think we can achieve some great things again this season.”

After eight seniors last year helped the program to double digit victories for the first time in school history, a good deal of experienced talent returns.

All-time single season scoring leader David Camacho returns after knocking home 19 goals last season for an offense that scored four or more goals in eight contests in 2016.

“I can’t think of another player in the last 15 years, who has scored the ball like David did last season,” Bayliss said. “Hopefully he will get that number again this season or get even more.”

Junior Sam McDonald and Adrian Franco will also look to spark a dangerous offensive attack for Walker Valley, who starts its season at Sequoyah Tuesday at 6 p.m. before taking part in the Cleveland Classic (March 23-25).

“Sam is a guy we expect him to help take care of some business up top this year and will score for us,” Bayliss said. “Adrian is a midfielder for us and will play back on defense too. He has great vision and incredible touch. In a preseason scrimmage against Boyd Buchanan he gave us a game-tying assist and scored the winning goal.”

Possessing the ball for every soccer team is an important factor into what makes a successful team.

The Mustangs controlled tempo last season as much as having the ball 80 percent of the time in contests last season and want to stay north of the 60 percent mark.

“We want the ball at all times and we will play a very aggressive style on our attack and defense,” Bayliss said. “Possession is the best defense and is what we strive for.”

Senior four-sport athlete Skylar Swafford brings as much leadership back to the goalkeeper position as any in District 5-AAA.

Opposing teams were only able to punch through 14 goals (0.93 goals per game) last season and should not have an easy time scoring once again.

“Skylar is very vocal, commanding and decisive,” Bayliss said. “He is an athletic and strong goalkeeper. He made a save in a preseason game the other night fully stretched out with one hand.

“He plays all sports with everything he’s got. He is a motivator and pushes the guys to make sure they are giving their best.”

Behind Swafford will be sophomores CJ Heffner and Noah Taylor at keeper.

Once the whistle blows, Walker Valley starters will be free to rotate to other positions on the field as long as they long as they switch effectively according to their head coach.

“We don’t just make our guys play one position they can play multiple positions during the game at any time,” Bayliss said. “Sam Gibson will start at center back and is going to be a vital part of our defense. He needs to be our anchor.”

After winning just as many contests last season as the previous three seasons combined, as the WV program went 12-24-2, the Mustangs have shot up with stellar talent to be one of the strongest teams in the district.

Their only falter last season in regular season league play came in a 2-0 loss at home to Cleveland. They will have a chance to avenge the loss on April 4 in their lone regular season matchup, while a district title game matchup could also present itself.

“We want to win the district,” Bayliss said. “Cleveland has been strong for a long time, but we have the talent now to fight for a championship. I still think Cleveland is the team to beat and I hope we are the team that does it.”

With a talented roster, Walker Valley will play East Ridge (5:30, Thursday), Maryville (4:00, Friday) and Lincoln County (4:00, Saturday) at the greater Cleveland soccer complex in the 9th annual classic this week.

While a tough early season test will present itself, the Mustangs hope they can sweep their way through that tournament as they build towards an even bigger goal.

“We have zero district championships in boys’ soccer in school history,” Bayliss said. “One district runner-up and that is it. It has been a long time coming and we hope this is our year.”

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