Soccer duo embraces Asheboro’s rise

Cristian Ortiz of Asheboro reacts to scoring a game during the Class 3-A state playoffs last fall against West Iredell. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

Blue Comets have two players in NC East-West All-Star Game

ASHEBORO – Calvin Smith and Cristian Ortiz helped take Asheboro’s boys’ soccer program to new heights.

They’re being rewarded with spots in next Tuesday night’s North Carolina East-West All-Star Game at MacPherson Stadium in Browns Summit.

With two players in the summer showcase, it’s an indication of the growth of Asheboro soccer.

Last year’s 23-2-2 record for the Blue Comets was part of a season that ended in the Class 3-A West Region final.

“I was just really proud of how far we made it,” Smith said. “It just kept going. We eventually found ourselves in the regional final.”

Smith and Ortiz earned their spots by playing well in the Mid-Piedmont Conference. Coach John Blake of league member Ledford is the West coach.

Smith, a defender, received numerous honors, including Defensive Player of the Year in the Mid-Piedmont Conference and all-star recognition.

With those accolades corresponding to Asheboro’s stellar two-year stretch, it means even more.

“I always felt we had the best group of players around,” Smith said. “It feels so good when you win with the team. Everybody’s mood is up.”

Asheboro’s Calvin Smith heads the ball during last year’s Class 3-A West Region final against Hickory. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

Smith was a three-year starter for Asheboro. Ortiz, a striker, became an offensive force in his last season with 36 goals after serving mostly as a backup a year earlier.

“I didn’t play that much,” Ortiz said. “I kind of saw what they did.”

Then he carried that into his final high school season.

“I would always be the first one on the field,” Ortiz said. “I would always try to motivate all my teammates.”

Smith’s experience this summer included going with a team based in the Triad to Baton Rouge, La., for the U.S. Youth Soccer’s Southern Regional.

In a few weeks, the 18-year-old will be heading to play for Division II Chowan.

“I wasn’t ready to give up on it,” Smith said. “I’ve been playing since I was about 4 years old. I kind of always had a ball at my feet.”

Ortiz, 18, will be done with organized soccer after this month’s game. He plans to attend UNC Greensboro.

“I’m very excited,” Ortiz said. “I have one last game to play. It’s going to be good to be back on the field in a competitive way.”

Yet in the base of Smith and Ortiz, they’ve left their marks on the Blue Comets. Outsiders have taken notice of the soccer team.

“We never really did it for the attention,” Ortiz said. “I think they’ll still keep it going.”

“I think for sure they’re paying attention now if they weren’t before,” Smith said.

By Bob Sutton