Raiders take it outside

Published 8:00 pm Monday, February 26, 2024

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PCA Athletics

For the first time in Pungo Christian Academy history, the Raiders will field a boys tennis team. PCA has offered girls tennis the past two years. Seniors Braden Armstrong and Brandon Tooley, junior Luke Rouse, sophomore Bruce Taylor, freshmen Carter Balance and Trent Armstrong and 8th-grader Ryan Rouse make up the first team. For most, it will be their first experience playing competitive tennis. The Raiders have an eight-match regular season schedule with all being non-conference since no other Tarheel Independent Conference schools offer boys tennis. Oakwood School (Greenville) is the only other NCISAA 1A school that offers boys tennis, which is why the schools compete in divisions rather than classification. Pungo will compete in division III, which is made up of 1A and 2A schools. Jason Williamson will coach the first year program. He led the Lady Raiders to a state quarterfinal appearance in the fall.

The Lady Raiders enter the season as the reigning NCISAA 1A State Champions and three-time defending TIC Conference Champions. The Raiders are without three time TIC Player of the Year Reagan Stoop on the mound. Sister Anna Stoop (Jr.) will be the likely replacement. She has a career 4.48 ERA in 20 innings pitched and 13 appearances. Senior Melanie Rutledge leads the team offensively. She has a career .504 batting average with 139 hits, 128 RBI and 18 home runs. Sisters Emma (Jr.) and EllaKate (Fr.) Hanna will lead the team in the field. Emma runs the outfield from her center field position and has a career batting average of .421 with 72 hits and 36 RBI while EllaKate runs the infield from her shortstop position and has a career batting average of .378 with 45 hits and 42 RBI. Like tennis, Softball has moved to a division sport in the NCISAA and the Raiders will also compete in Division III with 1A and 2A schools. Halifax Academy and Wayne Christian are the favorites at the state level while Lawrence Academy will be the team to beat in the TIC. The Lady Raiders are coached by Leigh Stoop who is in her 11thyear as head coach and has won 121 games so far in her career.

The baseball team has championship aspirations after falling one game short of a state championship appearance last year, falling to eventual state runner up and conference foe Lawrence Academy in the semi-finals. Pungo returns 11 of 12 players including. seniors Bo Spencer and Austin Garris. Spencer is a three-time all-conference selection with a career batting average of .329 with 56 hits. Garrish was named to the all-conference team last season and will start at shortstop. Evan Woolard (Jr.) returns as the Pungo ace. Woolard has a career ERA of 3.14 with 100 strikeouts across 62.1 innings pitched. He was also an all-conference selection last year and was the top bat on the team with a .408 average and 20 hits in 49 at bats. Lawrence Academy is the favorite to win the conference and state championship, but the Raiders expect to be in the mix. Chad Alligood is the first-year head coach.

Boys Golf
It will be a new look for the boys golf team this spring. Senior Grant Gibbs is the only returning player from a team of six a season ago. Fellow senior Drew Van Staalduinen along with Luke Alligood (Fr.) and Harbor Pair (7th) join Gibbs on the four man squad. Alligood and Pair may be the youngest, but bring the most experience, having played in summer leagues the past two years. Bryan Pair will take over as head coach after Chad Warren stepped down after serving eight years.

Girls Soccer
Since adding girls soccer in 2021, PCA has dominated the Tarheel Independent Conference with a record of 16 – 1 and two regular season and tournament championships. The Lady Raiders advanced to the state tournament semifinals last year and returns 15 of 17 players while adding three newcomers. Senior Katie Baxter is the two-time TIC Player of the Year with 55 goals and 32 assists over the past two seasons. Julia Rouse (Jr.) and Brooklyn Bowes (8th) will help Baxter on the attack. Rouse has 27 goals the past two seasons while Bowes scored 12 goals in her rookie season. Defenders Reagan Walker (Sr.), Sayla Brown (Jr.) and AvaHaiyes Cox (So.) return. Walker and Brown were All-Conference last season. Senior goalie Autumn Gibbs returns after her 103 saves last year were second in the NCISAA 1A. Logan Van Staalduinen is back to coach the Raiders in his third year with an overall record of 25 – 10 – 1.