In the fall of 1971, Wallace O’Neal Day School opened. In the fall of 1972, O’Neal added athletics to the mix, with soccer and basketball. Originally serving students in grades 4-6, grades 7 & 8 were added for the 1972-1973 year. In the fall of 1973, the 9th grade was added. It is suspected that the 1973 year was the first year for a varsity soccer team.
The year 1977 was memorable. It had grown to serve students in grades 1-12. It became nationally accredited, and the varsity soccer team was invited to participate in the first ever independent school state tournament. They made it to the second round of play-offs. The team had appearances in past state tournaments, but they were a combination of different school types. The North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) was formed in 1973 offering independent school state tournaments for boys and girls basketball, tennis and golf. Through the years, the tournament offerings grew. The year 1977 was when the NCISAA offered a state soccer tournament.
During this time, Athletic Director and Soccer Coach Jim Reid, was welcomed with the assistance of Al Stratta, an All-American soccer player from Cornell, who coached and played soccer professionally in Italy and Spain. Stratta was the manager of the Pinehurst Hotel and volunteered his afternoons to help coach the team. Stratta continued to assist the team through the 1990’s.
The varsity boys soccer team was a consecutive conference champion 1993-1999. It was not until 2017 & 2018 that the team earned the title again under the coaching of Athletic Director James Franklin. The varsity boys soccer team has reached as far as the state quarter finals.
In 1994, the first varsity girls soccer team was fielded. It was coached by math teacher George Mauser. Upon his departure for California for his wife’s career in 2001, the soccer field was named in his honor. Though the girls team has only won two conference championships – 1999 & 2006, the 2006 lady Falcons won the state championship. Kelsey Hukee ‘07 was a senior on this team. She went on to play soccer for Meredith College and is currently a learning and development business partner at Amazon in Seattle. She reflects, “Soccer or ‘football’ has always been a way for me to be a part of a bigger community. When I reflect on the O’Neal Girls Varsity Soccer Team, I think of just that, a community. We were friends first and teammates second. We all played together to have fun on and off the field, which to me is really what the game is about. I feel honored and very grateful for the warm memories of van rides to away games, pre-game chants, and the joy of winning States in 2006.” Interestingly, Head Coach Kyle Keigel for the 2006 Girls Soccer State Champions, has returned to O’Neal in 2021 to coach soccer and serve as an assistant teacher in O’Neal’s kindergarten.
As the School grew, there were JV and middle school teams. Currently, there is a middle school team for both girls and boys. The boys middle school team has held the conference champion title often under years of coaching by David Williamson. The girls middle school team, with Coach Lulu Brase, is working hard and has earned as high as conference runner-up.
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388