OCEAN – Max Buglisi was part of a trailblazing group last season that led the Croatan boys soccer team to its first-ever conference championship.
He hopes to repeat that history this year.
“It was something special, especially to do that with this group,” he said. “It was definitely fun. I’ve been playing since the fifth grade when I moved here, and it’s been the same group ever since then.”
The Cougars tied for the top spot in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference with Dixon and Southwest Onslow as each team finished with 6-1 league records in a hurricane-shortened schedule.
The club has enjoyed much success in the first two years of the Coastal 8, having finished as the runner-up in Buglisi’s sophomore season with a 12-2 mark.
The standout senior defender has helped produce an 18-3 conference record over the past two seasons. Croatan gave up 27 goals in that time. Only Dixon with 20 gave up fewer goals.
“Winning that conference championship was the highlight of my soccer career so far, but this year, we’re hoping to do even better,” Buglisi said. “Winning the conference is a big goal and doing our best in the playoffs.”
The postseason has been the one disappointment of Buglisi’s soccer career. The Cougars have lost in the second round of the 2A playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
“We feel like we’ve gotten unlucky, feel like we should have made it further, should have done better,” he said. “The goal is always a state championship.”
Buglisi has been playing on the defensive side of the ball since middle school. He waited to start his wrestling career in high school.
“Honestly, it scared me a little bit,” he said of the sport. “But I got to high school and figured I would give it a try and have stuck with it.”
His courage to step on the mat has paid off.
He has been a member of two dual-team state runner-up finishes.
Last year’s team got through the third round and regional final in matches that each came down to just one bout. The Cougars (25-4) edged Washington (33-6) by a 33-31 spread and then took a 39-33 victory over Ledford (22-11).
Buglisi won his 113-pound match in the regional final with a 5-1 decision to play a major role in the team win.
As a sophomore, he was part of an inexperienced team that had little expectation of making noise in the playoffs with a 9-2 record but then ripped through Dixon (21-8), Washington (21-2), North Pitt (23-6) and Wheatmore (24-5) to make it to the 2A state final.
“Oh, man, those trips to the state championship are the highlights of high school for me,” he said. “They’ve been crazy. I’ve loved it. A lot of those matches have been close, and could have gone either way. It’s been nice to see the work pay off. It’s really been something.”
Unfortunately, Croatan’s dream of a state title has fallen short in each of the past two campaigns wit lopsided losses to West Lincoln in the finals.
“Those have been disappointing, but it’s something to work toward,” Buglisi said. “Those losses fuel the fire for this year. We want to get a state title.”
The Coastal 8 Conference runner-up at 113 pounds, he went 32-15 last season. He went 24-22 as a sophomore and finished third in the east regional to qualify for the state tournament.
“Something kind of clicked at the end of my sophomore year and it rolled over to junior year, and I’ve been doing well ever since,” Buglisi said. “At Croatan, you have a standard to live up to.”
Being a two-sport athlete certainly hasn’t slowed Buglisi down in the classroom. He sports a 4.47 GPA and ranks eighth in his class. He also has an active extracurricular schedule as a member of the Beta Club, Hospice Helpers, Surf Riders and RC Airplane Club.
“You just put the work in,” he said. “School comes first, sports second. Having fun is important, but sometimes it takes a passenger seat.”
Buglisi has set his sights on an astrophysics major in college.
“I’ve been thinking about that for a couple of years, with no wavering,” he said. “But I don’t want to put too much weight on it, I could change my mind. I’ve just always been interested in outer space, and the philosophy of why we’re here.”
A military kid who’s lived in Florida, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, Buglisi hopes to attend the California Institute of Technology.
“It might be a reach, but if I could go anywhere, that is where I would love to go,” he said.
Here are a few of Buglisi’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “The Blind Side.”
Favorite TV Show: “The Promised Neverland.”
Favorite Cartoon: “Adventure Time.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Juice WRLD.
Favorite Song: “20 Min” by Lil Uzi Vert.
Favorite Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Favorite Team: New York Giants and Arsenal.
Favorite Athlete: Lawrence Taylor.
Favorite Vacation: Italy, summer of 2015.
Favorite Hobby: Surfing and wakeboarding.
Favorite Subject: Science.
Favorite Quote: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”
Favorite Food: My mom’s chili.
Favorite Drink: Water.
Favorite Restaurant: Wasabi.
Favorite Season: Fall.
Favorite Sports Memory: Getting to states for wrestling for the past two years.
Favorite Teacher: Ms. Robin Newton.
Favorite Sport: Soccer.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Pregame prayer before each game.
Favorite Website/App: Netflix.
Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: My mon @molliempinto.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Jesus and Sigmund Freud.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Zach Simonette, Nathan Waltrip, William Swiber, Jacob Caldwell, Quinn Fonner and coach David Perry.
Items For A Deserted Island: Rope, knife, clothes, bowl/pot and bubble gum.