MOREHEAD CITY — Matthew Loynes moved to center back four games ago, and the West Carteret soccer team hasn’t lost since.
The senior captain, along with Jackson Westbrook who also moved to the backline, has solidified a defense that registered three clean sheets during the four-game winning streak.
“I don’t know what the difference is,” Loynes said. “I think we’ve picked it up, even in warmups. We’re focusing, not letting anything distract us.”
Loynes has been equally focused off the field. He ranks first in his class with a 4.56 GPA.
“The classroom, academics, those are always at the forefront for me,” he said. “It came easier when I was younger. It’s been more difficult as you get older with so much other stuff going on. You have to work harder.”
The soccer and school time crunch has been exacerbated by college application deadlines. He plans on applying to Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke.
Loynes said Wake Forest is his current favorite. His sister, Anna, is a sophomore at the Winston-Salem school.
“I haven’t made up my mind, I’m keeping my options open, but that campus is something really special,” he said. “My sister really enjoys the school and tells me a bunch of great things about it. It’s a great school.”
He is interested in business and environmental science. Loynes and teammate Alec Munoz finished second in the nation in the Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA) National Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Tex. in the LifeSmarts Quiz Bowl event.
“I really like environmental science, but I really like business as well,” Loynes said. “If I could find some way to combine those two things, that would be great.”
West’s four-game rise is even more eye-opening considering the Patriots previously dropped four games in a row, culminating in a 10-1 defeat at Ashley.
“The low point of the season was definitely that Ashley loss,” Loynes said. “Everyone was quieter during warmups for the next game.”
West’s win streak began after that nine-goal loss with a 3-0 victory over East Duplin. The Morehead City club then beat East Carteret 4-0, followed by a 4-2 win over Farmville Central and a 5-0 triumph over Southwest Onslow, which moved the team to 6-5 after a 2-5 start to the season.
“I thought we started out a little slow,” Loynes said. “We have kind of a young team with only five seniors, but I think we’re super talented, and I think we are starting to hit our stride as we hit conference.”
The Patriots have already won as many games as they did in all of 2018 and 2017 combined when they went 6-29. They haven’t won four straight since 2016 when they went 10-7-1. That is also the last time the squad made the playoffs.
Loynes reported the seniors on the team were committed to making sure this year was going to be different than the last two, putting their noses to the grindstone and meeting for morning workouts this summer.
“We’re looking to finish in the top two of the conference and have a winning record, which would be a big improvement over the last few years,” Loynes said. “We want to make our senior year count.”
Loynes is a lifelong midfielder who played the position during the last two seasons on the varsity, including in his junior campaign when he felt like he played the best soccer of his career. He did play center back on his club team for the last two years to gain experience at that spot.
“I’ve always played midfield, but I’m just here for the team,” he said. “However I can best help.”
The schedule lightened up a bit during the winning streak.
The Patriots were outscored 24-1 in their four-game slide, falling to New Bern (6-5), Croatan (5-3-2), J.H. Rose (6-4-2) and Ashley (4-4-3). Those teams are a combined 21-16-7.
They outscored their opponents 16-2 in the win streak, beating East Duplin (4-6-1), East Carteret (1-6), Farmville Central (2-6-2) and Southwest Onslow (2-7). Those teams are a combined 9-25-3.
The schedule will tighten up again with 3A Coastal Conference play beginning, including Jacksonville (6-1-1), Havelock (3-2-2), Swansboro (3-6-2), White Oak (3-3-2) and Northside-Jacksonville (4-5-1).
“I’m looking forward to the conference season, especially, because those are the hardest games,” Loynes said. “Jacksonville is scary, Swansboro is always good, Havelock, White Oak, Northside, and us, we’re all very evenly matched.”
Here are a few of Loynes’ 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 Revenant.”
Favorite TV Show: “Game of Thrones.”
Favorite Cartoon: “Courage the Cowardly Dog.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Kendrick Lamar.
Favorite Song: “Backstreet Freestyle” by Kendrick Lamar.
Favorite Book: Under the Dome by Stephen King.
Favorite Team: New England Patriots.
Favorite Athlete: Kevin De Bruyne.
Favorite Vacation: Cruise in the Mediterranean.
Favorite Hobby: Playing soccer.
Favorite Subject: Environmental Science.
Favorite Quote: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky.
Favorite Food: Baked ziti.
Favorite Drink: Water.
Favorite Restaurant: Casa San Carlo.
Favorite Season: Winter.
Favorite Sports Memory: Scoring two goals against White Oak as a junior.
Favorite Teacher: Mr. Mark Thompson.
Favorite Sport: Soccer.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Pre-game quote during the team huddle.
Favorite Website/App: Snapchat.
Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: Extendo.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Quentin Tarantino, Lionel Messi, Kendrick Lamar, Bill Gates and George Washington.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Alec Munoz, Ransom Bryant, August Taber, Luke Battista, Howard Lupton and coach Charles Dailey.
Items For A Deserted Island: Soccer ball, machete It by Stephen King, water canteen and a lighter.