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Lady Patriots Open With Challenging Schedule
March 4, 2011Pinecrest High School
BY CHARLIE BERGMANN
The early season schedule of the Pinecrest girls' soccer team is a veritable champions' tour.
Champions in their own right as winners of 13 conference titles in a row, the Patriots entertain South View, the third place team from the Mid-South Conference last season, in tonight's 7 p.m. season opener. The jayvee match begins at 5:30 p.m.
The next five matches, four of them on the road, are against teams with a combined 2010 record of 104-13-6.
This weekend, the Patriots travel west to meet last year's first and second place teams from the Mountain Athletic Conference in A.C Reynolds and T. C. Roberson. The last three matches of the "tour" are against Cardinal Gibbons, the 3A state runner-up, Hoggard, the 4A runner-up (at home) and Leesville Road, a team that was undefeated until it lost to Hoggard in a state semifinal match.
"We could be 0-6 or we could be 6-0," says Todd Abbey, beginning his third year as coach of the Patriot girls. "I won't set up this type of schedule year after year, but I felt like that was the only way this team was going to get better."
Ranked eighth at the end of last year, the Patriots have 14 returnees, including nine seniors who carry painful memories of the 1-0 fourth round overtime loss to Hoggard that ended the 2010 season. Hoggard went on to lose to North Mecklenburg on penalty kicks in the state title match. Abbey's last two Patriots boys' teams made it to the regional final (fifth round).
"Even though we lost to Hoggard, the way we lost made them even more determined to come back," Abbey says of his players. "There is very little social aspect to this team. Starting from day one, the intensity was higher at practice than it's ever been. Their whole focus is on being on the field and playing. It's great from a coaching and program standpoint."
Leading a group of returnees with high aspirations are two that earned all-conference recognition in each of their first three seasons in goalkeeper Sarah Dejak and midfielder Kate Hieronymus. Verbally committed to play at Syracuse, Dejak has 43 career shutouts. She has been an all-region selection three times while Hieronymus, an outstanding possessor and distributor of the ball, has earned that distinction twice.
Forward Lauren Corrigan (Sr.), midfielders Mariotti Meyers (Sr.) and Ally Parziale (Jr.) and defender Beth Hieronymus (Sr.) are other returnees that earned league recognition either last year or the one before.
Starting from the back, Abbey Crider, one of three freshmen to make the team, will back up Dejak in the goal. Beth Hieronymus will be the center back flanked by an experienced group that includes Claire Epling (Sr.), Alexa Zoellner (Sr.), Heather Brock (Jr.) and Jazz Jones (So.).
Kate Hieronymus, Mariotti Meyers, Keegan Cary (Jr.), and sisters Michelle Lynch (Sr.) and Keegan Lynch (So.) are the experienced midfielders. Twin sisters Kathryn and Kelly Palmer (So.), Haley Robinson (So.) and McKenzie Reed (Fr.) are new additions to that group.
Corrigan, Parziale, Kristen Phelps (Jr.), last season's Patriot offensive player of the year, and Antonia Meyers (Jr.) are all proven goal scorers. Add Ashlyn Douglas (Sr.) and Kara Sheerin (Fr.) to that group.
"We are definitely deeper this year," Abbey says. "Anybody can start on any given night. The players returning understand no one is safe. If you don't step up and play you're going to be sitting on the bench."
Tonight's opponent, South View, was defeated 1-0 by Lumberton in its opener on Monday. Mixed in with the Southeastern Conference schedule that gets under way with a match at Richmond Senior on March 14, are dates against more ranked teams from last year, including East Chapel Hill (No. 4), Broughton (No. 8) and Jacksonville (No. 4, 3A).
Rebecca Dupre, an all-state defender for the Patriots last season, and a college player at Converse (S.C.) last fall, will be Abbey's assistant coach. Ray Blatz will coach the jayvee team and J.T. Stilwell will be the team manager.
Contact Charlie Bergmann at email@example.com.
Schedule - Mar. 2 South View; 4 at A.C. Reynolds; 5 at T.C. Roberson; 7 at Cardinal Gibbons; 9 Hoggard; 11 at Leesville Road; 14 at Richmond; 16 Lumberton; 17 at Broughton; 21 Scotland; 23 Purnell Swett; 24 at Jack Britt; Apr. 6 at Lumberton; 8 Terry Sanford; 9 Jacksonville; 11 at Scotland; 13 at Purnell Swett; 14 Sanderson; 18 Richmond; 19 East Chapel Hill; 25 Hoke; 27 at Hoke; 29 New Hanover.