Redhawks Miss Year of Development

The Westwood boys soccer team and head coach John Rosier both had a good feeling for this soccer season.

“I did have high hopes this year based on the quality of our players,” the fifth-year head coach, former USC player, and longtime Midlands soccer coach said. “Based on the quality of players and the skills, it’s getting a lot better. We’re not yet as strong as Dutch Fork or River Bluff, but I still have high hopes for this team.”

Westwood, which finished 2019 6-15 and 2-8 in Region 3-4A, got off to a 2-1 start, dropping its opener to Mid-Carolina in overtime March 6, but beating the Rebels four days later in a game that also went into overtime.

The Redhawks followed up with a victory over Swansea 3-2 March 11.

“Swansea is probably the smallest school we played on the schedule, but it has high quality players,” Rosier said. “Team size doesn’t matter when it comes to soccer. They’re well coached, and dynamite comes in small sizes.”

The young and impressionable Redhawks looked to follow up on the win over the Tigers with at least a few more wins. Many understood that Gov. Henry McMaster would soon make a decision on whether to close down all the schools in the state, but were not sure when.

The Redhawks took the field for a practice Saturday, March 14. Throughout the practice, Rosier said he got updates on his phone about Gov. McMaster’s pending decision to close the schools.

“That night when I got home I heard it on television that all sports were going to be cancelled,” he said. “Since then I just kept hoping to keep in touch with the kids by email, so that we could turn in uniforms, and if it turned out we would have a season, we could reissue them.”

McMaster’s order came down officially the next day.

Since the closures, Rosier said that players have been exercising their skills at home as well as together in small groups, albeit with six feet of separation. If not for staying ready if the season got back in line, then for keeping active and fit at a time when everyone was encouraged to stay home and stay away from public places.

“I was disappointed,” Rosier said. “The team was too. Some were happy in some ways, but all of us didn’t think it was going to go on until it was announced that that was it.”

The season stoppage clipped short the careers of five Redhawk seniors, Matthew Thrower, Dominik Greene, Isaac Delarosa, Tareek Peart, and Richard (Clay) Woranka.

“I will miss those kids, they were skillful,” Rosier said. “We had a good core group, so I thought this year would have been a good year no matter what.”

Moving forward, Rosier hopes the kids can stay involved with club soccer, should it return in any capacity this year, and keep up with the skills.

“Next year we go into a new region, and Ridge View moves up to 5A,” Rosier said, noting the region champion Blazers’ exit. “We won’t have Ridge View, but we’ll have Lugoff-Elgin, Irmo, A.C. Flora and Dreher.”

Lugoff-Elgin and Irmo are down from Class 5A. Flora went deep in the upper state 4A playoffs last year, and the Blue Devils of Dreher rose out of the lower state bracket to beat Eastside 4-3 for the state championship.

With that level of competition coming up next year, Rosier knows his team has to be ready. He said he appreciates their self-confidence, but he knows that without a junior varsity squad to season the younger players, the Redhawks’ road to victory will be tougher.

Since coming to Westwood, Rosier has gotten recruits onto club soccer teams and playing a lot of off-season soccer. After his first season, more and more players have taken part in club soccer, and it shows on the field, he said.

“You just cannot play a sport three months out of the year,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, especially if you want to play in college. I’m not around to talk to them now that schools are closed, but I’m hoping that some of them continue to play in the offseason.”

Not pictured: Dominic Green