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Southwestern Randolph’s Fernando Hernandez takes Monday’s 3-2 third-round home playoff loss to Lincoln Charter hard.    Eric Abernathy/Randolph Hub

After third-round exit, Cougars' soccer future looks bright

ASHEBORO — Jimmy Walker had a timeline for his Southwestern Randolph High School soccer program after a slew of underclassmen don the Blue and gold for the first time in 2022. With a majority of underclassmen in the starting lineup, Walker said he expected the team to be really strong in three seasons.


The Cougars quickened his timetable.


Though the Cougars were eliminated from the state 2-A playoffs Monday night after a 3-2 loss to Lincoln Charter, SWR finished the season 21-4-1 with a very bright future ahead. Six sophomores and one freshman started the third-round playoff game.


“In the back of your mind, with these freshmen, you think junior and seniors and here they are as sophomores,” Walker said. 


But it wasn’t just the underclassmen.


“The ship for these seniors was in the wrong direction going into a head wind with no sails and now we have the ship turned right, the wind at our backs and the sails up,” Walker said. “This program should take off. We will only learn from this loss.”


The Cougars gave up an early goal Monday as Ethan Yates scored on a 35-yard shot three minutes into the game before SWR striker David Lopez Dominguez tied the game off a scramble in front at the 22:35 mark. It was his 23rd goal of the season.


LC took a 2-1 halftime lead with a goal off a free kick from the side at the 38-minute mark.


Jonathan Perez had a couple of solid saves to keep the Cougars in the contest early in the second half, and the offense tied the game on a goal by Fernando Hernandez — his 49th of the season.


But an own goal 12:40 into the second half proved to be the difference. A shot deflected off the goal post in front and was knocked in by a SWR defender.


“We had our chances,” Walker said. “It’s hard for young kids to understand what I see coming.”