While the 2019 men’s soccer season for the Person Rockets did not include many wins on the schedule, individual player performances and growth over the course of the season were among the highlights for the team.
The arrival of head coach Rick Baltes, who had previously been teaching in Person County for 19 years, was a main storyline entering the season. The Rockets boasted 10 upperclassmen, with nine juniors and a lone senior, Justin Neathery.
Person’s lone win was a 4-1 road victory at Morehead on Sept. 16, Baltes had plenty to be proud of with his new team.
“In the Morehead game, which we won 4-1 on the road, there were a lot of ups and downs. In the first half, we moved around well. We were able to capitalize on a lot of our opportunities. In the second half, we became congested. We did not play as well in the second half because of our congestion. We were, however, able to capitalize on a few of our opportunities, and take advantage of a few mistakes by Morehead.”
After a rough five-game stretch to begin the season that included four losses and a tie, the Rockets started conference play with a win against Morehead. Though this game put the Rockets in the win column, it was not the turning point of the Rockets’ season.
“The Western Alamance game was really a key point in our season,” said Baltes. “While we did not win the game, our guys started to play better soccer after that. We made smart plays, we set guys up, and our defense was able to hold teams close in the first half of games.”
After the first matchup against the Warriors, the Rockets scored a goal in two of their next three games, and held two of their next four opponents to three goals or less.
Baltes liked a lot of what he saw from his players, not just in the five-game stretch that included Western Alamance, Northern Guilford, McMichael, Rockingham County, and Northeast Guilford, but in the overall season as a whole. One player who stood out particularly to Baltes was his son, goalkeeper Owen Baltes.
“He brings a lot of versatility to the team. He is one of the leaders on the team. Owen saved some big-time shots over the course of the season. Owen’s play kept us in games. He was able to instantly recognize the opponent’s attack.”
One thing that coaches like to see out of their players is versatility. Owen Baltes provided just that this season. In addition to being the team’s goalkeeper, he also has an offensive presence.
“Outside of playing goalie, Owen helps the attack,” Rick Baltes said. “Owen is good on the attack, and I can attribute part of that to being a goalie. He is able to recognize the attack. He has good awareness, which is able to set up quality chances for us on the attacking half of the field.”
Owen Baltes’ performance this season, earned him a place on the Mid-State 3A All-Conference team.
With the season now complete, Rick Baltes will take a little time to reflect on his team, then start up an offseason full of soccer.
“As a team in the offseason, I like to hold both winter workouts and spring workouts. I like to get my guys in the weight room, and also get them out on the field. There is a dead period where we are not allowed to practice at all, but after that dead period is when I start working out the guys for the winter.”
While Baltes wants to have all of his players attend team workouts in the offseason, he understands that some of them play travel soccer instead.
“One thing that I like out of my players is for them to play year-round. Some of my guys play in the spring. It keeps them prepared for our fall season. The more guys we have play year-round, especially when those guys are on the same team, it makes for a more successful upcoming season.”