MOREHEAD CITY — West Carteret senior Jason Bates is seizing his opportunity to play college soccer at William Peace University next year.
Unsure if he would find a spot at the next level, Bates got the call this spring and celebrated his Division III signing day alongside longtime friend Raine Greene who also signed on to play as a Pacer next fall.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Bates said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to get a spot to play in college, but it all worked out and I’m just really happy.”
Bates had nibbles to play college soccer but no scholarship offers until William Peace extended one in May.
“A month ago, I was at the beach and Hampton-Sydney (College) called me and said they had a (walk-on) spot open but no scholarship,” he said. “William Peace initially didn’t offer (a scholarship), but coach (Charles) Dailey called him and vouched for me. A couple of weeks later, I got the call, and they offered me a (scholarship).”
Bates recently took his visit to the school, charmed by the small-scale facilities that reminded him of home.
“I visited the athletic facilities, and I liked what I saw,” he said. “It’s a small campus, so everyone knows each other.”
Bates toiled through down-turn seasons at West as a junior and a senior. The Patriots went a combined 6-29 over the last two years, placing fourth in the 3A Coastal Conference last fall after a Hurricane Florence-shortened season.
“I’ve been growing up with a lot of those guys, so even if we didn’t always get the result, we wanted, we had fun playing,” Bates said.
Despite the struggles of the team, Bates was still an effective player. He tied for a team-high seven goals and three assists as a senior after tallying two goals and two assists as a junior.
“He’s a fierce competitor. He’s very athletic, and he reads the game very well,” West boys soccer coach Charles Dailey said. “He’s very present and aware of what’s going on on the soccer field. He has played a long time, so he has a lot of experience.”
West girls coach Matthew Graham also coached Bates as a junior before focusing solely on the girls team in 2018-2019.
“He’s a great kid,” Graham said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with him. He always has a positive attitude, and he’s a cheerful guy. If he steps into that next level of competition with confidence, he’ll thrive. It won’t come as easy as some of the high school ball has for him. He’ll realize he has another gear. You see flashes of it on the field already when he’s pushed to be more intense and more purposeful.”
Bates was an all-conference selection in 2018, as well as a N.C. Soccer Coaches Association (NCSCA) 3A All-Region 3 selection. He’ll look to etch out a role with a Pacers program that went 8-5-5 overall last season. The Pacers have steadily improved over the last six years, going 0-10-1 in 2013, a combined 5-29 in 2014-2015 and a combined 12-21-3 in 2016-2017.