PLEASANT VALLEY — Already well-known and well-respected within the East Fairmont soccer community as a figurehead of the girls’ program for the past 11 years, Eric Wright is ready to double down on his EFHS soccer duties this fall, as he’ll officially become the new East Fairmont boys’ soccer coach while also remaining the head girls’ coach.
Wright has served as the East Fairmont girls’ head coach for the past seven seasons and a member of the Lady Bees’ staff for the past 11 seasons, and he will now make his debut on the boys’ side as a first-year head coach while serving as the girls’ head coach for his eighth season.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Wright said Tuesday. “We’ve always tried to the run the programs together as best we could and it’s just going to bring them together even more. I know the tradition we’ve had for years here at East Fairmont with the soccer program and we’re just going to try to carry that on from what’s been built in the past.”
Wright will take over the East Fairmont boys’ team from former coach Jeff Merrifield, who coached the Bees to a 22-11-4 overall record the past two seasons, including a pair of sectional title game berths.
“We want to thank Coach Merrifield for the two years he put into our program,” East Fairmont Athletic Director James Beckman said Tuesday. “He’s exploring other opportunities within his own career and we want to thank him for the time he’s put into our program.”
In addition to Merrifield’s departure, both of last season’s boys’ assistant coaches Steve Cerullo and Mikey Perez are also not expected to return. Wright and EFHS’s athletic administration have already begun the process of filling out the rest of the coaching staff, Wright said.
“Both of the programs are that way where we have a tradition with good players and good coaching staffs, and if it wasn’t for the coaching staffs, I really wouldn’t be able to do this,” said Wright, who has always been complimentary of his group of assistants with the Lady Bees, which is led by his daughter and head assistant, Breanna Wright. “I’m putting together a top notch staff on the boys’ side that’s going to rival what we have on the girls’ side.”
As the head coach of the EFHS girls’ team last fall, Wright led the Lady Bees to a 14-7-1 overall record and a sectional title game berth, where they lost a hard-fought battle to Fairmont Senior 4-3 to end their season. The East Fairmont boys, meanwhile, went 8-7-2 last season and also lost to Fairmont Senior in the sectional title by a 6-1 score.
Wright will now oversee both programs entering this fall in a move that has been bandied about between Wright and the EFHS athletic administration for some time, he said.
“It’s something we’ve talked about in the past that potentially down the road something could happen where I was either coaching both or moving over to the boys’ side,” Wright said.
Look for Wright to take on a more central day-to-day role with the Lady Bees. Wright has publicly said as early as last fall that his daughter will likely transition into becoming the EFHS girls’ coach at some point, although he reiterated on Tuesday there’s no timeline for when a full-on shift may happen.
As for this upcoming season, meanwhile, Wright said he will meet the boys’ team in the coming weeks and has already spoken to the girls’ team about accepting the boys’ coaching job while also remaining their head coach.
“I haven’t met with the boys yet, but I can speak about the girls — I’ve met with them and I know my returning players — and they are as motivated as any group I’ve ever had,” he said.
“It’s a dozen years I’ve been with this program and in the community here at East Side, and all I’ve ever gotten is support from everybody, especially from the administration, the athletic director — everyone has always shown me as much support as I’ve needed,” Wright said. “That led a lot into this and I knew that they would help in any way I needed.”
Wright will become the fourth EFHS boys’ coach since the program’s Class AA/A state championship season in 2016 under coach Mark Harvath. Upon Harvath’s retirement following that season, East Fairmont hired coach Tristan Wierbonski, who coached the Bees for two seasons from 2017-18 before moving to Duke University as an assistant coach. Merrifield then took over the program for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and now Wright will take the reigns for the upcoming 2021 season.
“From Tristan to Jeff and now to Eric, we’ve been very blessed here at East Fairmont with our soccer program,” Beckman said. “We’re very confident Eric can continue to pick up the baton and keep us where we’ve been for the past several years.”