Boys All Area Soccer
Boys Player of the Year: West Hall's Juan Arbalaez
After two decades of coaching boys soccer at West Hall High, Wolfgang Jager has seen it all. The ups and downs, the good years, the bad years and everything between.
But what Jager saw in this year’s Spartans was unlike anything he had ever seen. Never before had he possessed a talent pool so deep.
With that talent, Jager assembled a team that enjoyed a season of historical measures in the West Hall soccer program.
Armed with eight seniors and even more players with varsity experience, Jager coached West Hall to an 18-4 record, the best in school history, while earning an Area 7-AAA title, a Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup title, and the most cherished of all — a state finals appearance.
"This is the standout team of West Hall soccer," Jager said. "The kids had a lot of ambition and a lot of talent."
Surprisingly enough, Jager saw the big year coming long before it began.
He caught his first glimpse of it four years ago, when the 2009 seniors were freshmen. Many of them saw the field on a nightly basis, and honed their skills together at a young age.
"This has not been something that just suddenly came up this year," Jager said. "The players came together as one unit."
Years went by, and those same Spartan players continued to collaborate under Jager’s watch, while suffering through three seasons of missing the playoffs, each by only a small margin in the region standings.
"We were unlucky the last couple of years to miss the state tournament," Jager said.
"Two years ago we were one game short and last year there were four or five teams tied with the same record and we didn’t get in because of a tie-breaker."
That’s what made the 2009 season all more rewarding for the Spartans, who made their statement as area and state contender early in the season with 23 goals in the first four games. They ended the year with an area-high 79 goals, while allowing only 20.
They also enjoyed an eight-game shutout streak that spanned over a month and lasted into the state semifinals.
"I did not have to push them to work harder," Jager said. "They knew what they had to do to be like that. They wanted it.
"Their determination really came out in them and I enjoyed that. If you have a team that wants to achieve things, that makes things a lot easier for the coach."
With the season now over, Jager now begins the blueprints for the next state finalist — or even champion — at West Hall.
But he’s also well aware that the 2009 season is one to remember for years to come in the Spartan soccer program.
"I’m hoping that this work that we had together this year made them realize that with work, a good attitude and a good faith effort they can achieve lots of things, not only in soccer but in their personal lives," Jager said.
"I’m quite confident that will happen."