STEPPING UP — My Take: A historic team well represented
Published 3:48 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2015
For a high school soccer team to make the state championship, it takes talent evenly dispersed through a starting 11, consistent coaching and a significant amount of luck. But last year, the stars aligned for the Washington girls’ soccer team.
Fresh off relegation from the 3-A Coastal to the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, about five games into the season, players became comfortable in their roles. The midfield went unmatched, the defense solid and the forward position productive.
Washington went from a middle-of-the-table threat to a powerhouse in just a couple of months, piecing together a 21-game win streak en route to the title game.
Ultimately, it was a collection of injuries across key positions that cost them a ring, but the run garnered the attention of local recruiters looking to bolster their college rosters.
Since that 2-0 loss to West Strokes on May 31, four players from the 2014 Pam Pack runner-up team have committed to or are currently suiting up for a college soccer program.
Yesterday, Warner Little was the latest player to sign her letter of intent, securing her spot on the Meredith College Avenging Angels next spring.
It’s an impressive feat for a team that, initially, struggled to field a full roster and played most the season with a limited bench.
Head coach Ed Rodriguez, who was honored with the Washington Daily News Coach of the Year Award for his efforts, was forced to mix and match until he found a winning combination. His efforts paid off and now, his former players are benefitting.
Alana Jefferson, captain of the runner-up team who scored 36 goals as a senior, was the first to sign away her talents, and in her rookie season for Queens University of Charlotte, a NCAA Division II program, she started 16 games, notching two goals and two assists.
Christian Heggie fell one goal short of the Washington’s single-season scoring record (held by Beth Batchelor), but her 55 goals led the entire state of North Carolina among all classes and was the 22nd-highest total in N.C. high school history. Heggie, who was one of Rodriguez’s late-season knee injuries, committed to Division III Guilford College in Greensboro, though she had to sit out her freshman campaign.
Last month, Caitlyn Scott became the first and only player, so far, from the runner-up team to commit to a Division I institution, Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. Scott was third on the team in scoring with 20 goals and currently leads the Pam Pack in 2015 with 19 goals (11 games).
The verdict? All those goals from a season ago, 171 to be exact, paid off and will continue to pay off.
“It makes me feel good,” Rodriguez said. “I think we still have at least one or two more who could play at the college level — Sydney (Edwards) and I think if Emily Alligood decides she wants to play, she’ll be welcomed somewhere too. I think those girls deserve it. They had a good run and play with a lot of intensity.”
The 2014 team set the foundation for the future, as interest in playing for Rodriguez has doubled this offseason. Today, a team that once struggled to field a starting 11 now has 10 freshmen.
That’s the effect one state championship run can have.
With all the attention surrounding the Washington football team last fall, it’s easy to overlook the girls’ soccer team’s achievements. Football is, undoubtedly, a revenue sport for a reason.
However, it’s the girls’ soccer team’s college ambition that offer a constant reminder to those who may forget.