The Leesville Road High School men’s soccer team is a regular contender for the Cap-8 title and with strong and physical conference a freshman on varsity is a rare occurrence.
Despite the low odds, Alex Stewart, freshman, was able to claim a spot on the 2016 roster; he is the first player to make the team as a freshman since Grant Nelson, a senior.
Stewart standing at 5’9’’ is not your typical freshman. He plays for U15 CASL Red which is currently North Carolina’s defending State Champions. Stewart is a natural born striker with a great desire to succeed and improve. By playing on varsity, he is able to grow as a player and learn from more experienced players.
“It’s a good experience, good to play with older kids, you get better and stronger, and it’s a good learning experience,” said Stewart. He has been able to receive a good amount of playing, scoring five goals for the season.
Nelson also reflected on his freshman experience. “My freshman experience was really cool. I got to meet a lot of new people, and it was cool talking with seniors. It’s just a really good way to start your freshman year going into high school because you immediately have a bunch of friends that are older, and they can help you out with a bunch of stuff cause they have already gone through everything,” he said.
Playing varsity soccer, or any sport, as a freshman is an incredible and unique experience that a player will cherish forever. Some four years later, Nelson is still able to retell one of his favorite memories like it was yesterday.
“I remember the last game. I wanted to win more than anything else for my seniors because that was going to be their last game,” said Nelson.
Even though it may be a great way to transition into high school, it’s a privilege that is rarely earned. Head coach Paul Dinkenor explained why it is so rare to see a rising freshman make the squad.
“The boys game is so physical even if you have skills, quickness. In the boys game you’re gonna need size…so much of the game is in the air. It’s very physical — you’re playing against kids that are 18 years old, you know 5’11’’, 180 pounds, and you’re 14, 5’5”, 130-140 pounds you’re not gonna get it done,” said Dinkenor.
Freshman year can also be very difficult from some students. Freshman face harder classes, more homework, new people, and numerous other challenges. The commitment that a varsity sport requires may be too much to handle for some freshman.
The freshman experience is one like no other, and make sure to keep your eye on any of them on varsity, because in three years they just may be something special. Also come out and watch Stewart as the men’s soccer team advances into the state playoffs.