HICKORY – Central Academy’s boys soccer team had a memorable season, entering the 3A playoffs seeded seventh and winning three rounds for the first time in the program’s history.

The Cougars concluded their Fall 2021 season on Wednesday night with a 2-0 road loss to No. 3-seeded Hickory (21-1-3) in the fourth round of the 3A state tournament.

Central Academy finished its season with a 16-7-3 record. In 26 matches, the Cougars scored 79 goals and tallied 67 assists.

The Cougars, who carried a five-game win streak into the match at Hickory, will lose 10 seniors from the program’s most accomplished team, including midfielder Natu Tewelde (11 goals), forward Jonathan Kamenick (16 goals, 11 assists), goalkeeper Seth Averill (152 saves) and midfielder Marco Almeida (six goals, seven assists).

“Just a phenomenal group of young men, I couldn’t be prouder of them and what they did this year,” Cougars head coach Jay Niessner said. “The 10 seniors helped bring this team back up, after a few down years, and they left (this season) better than we found it. Can’t say enough about them, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”

The first half of the match started slow for both squads, but in the 31st minute, sophomore David Escobedo scored a goal from 25 yards out to the upper left corner of the met over Averill to lead Hickory 1-0. Averill had 13 saves on 15 shots of the night for the Cougars.

Senior Spears Culpepper added an insurance goal off an assist Ben Howard, squashing any idea of a comeback.

The Cougars are eligible to return leading scorer Jose Dominguez (20 goals), sophomores Jason Frost, Aaron Higgins (7 goals and seven assists), and Anthony Fehlman, and freshman Evan Levitas.

“I think as a program, and as a family, we played for each other and with the goal of a conference title and a playoff seed,” Tewelde said. “With the support of players, coaches, parents, and the CATA (community), we progressed through the conference, and eventually playoffs breaking expectations. I’m happy that I could be a part of our program, and I’m forever proud of our accomplishments.”