Resilient Patriots bring home girls soccer crown
by Staff Writer
Three short years ago, Davidson Day School’s girls soccer program was in its infancy.
Now, they’re state champions.
On May 21, a day after overcoming the loss of leading scorer Bri Wills to a right leg injury in the semifinals, the Patriots won the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A championship with a 5-2 victory over Greensville, S.C.’s Shannon Forest Christian School.
In the semifinals against Wilson’s Community Christian on May 20, Wills broke both her fibula and tibula in a collision with the opponent’s goalie. Team officials said she was scheduled to have surgery on May 24.
Wills paced Davidson Day (20-5-1) with 77 goals on the year, but even without the high-scoring senior, the Patriots wouldn’t be denied.
“Obviously whenever you win a title it’s very special, but what meant the most to me was the way we did it,” Davidson Day soccer coach Chad Metzler said. “Part of it was having the players to do it, and part was just great teamwork.”
On the season, the Patriots posted a 17-0 record against 1A private-school opponents, outscoring them 113-6 along the way. But it was the team’s difficult slate against opponents from 3A and 4A public and private schools such as Belmont South Point (a 3-1 win on March 2) and Charlotte Latin (a 5-0 loss on March 10) that forged the Patriots’ resolve to bring home the title.
According to Metzler, it wasn’t the Patriots’ championship game that was the turning point. Instead, it was their 3-1 win over Community Christian that showed him the team refused to lose.
“Bri was obviously a key to our offense, and when she got hurt, we were down 1-0 (just) 15 minutes into the game,” Metzler said. “The girls were nervous going into the game. By then, they could’ve packed up, but instead they stepped up.”
The high drama that surrounded the semifinal comeback made the title game almost anticlimactic, Metzler added. A pair of goals from Maxlyn Foster keyed the Patriots’ championship game victory, made sweeter by the team’s ability to show that it could win even after losing its star.
“Bri’s an explosive player and one who led what was kind of our attitude throughout the year: ‘We’re going to outscore you,’” he said, adding that the team thought of itself as the high-school soccer version of college football’s Texas Christian University, which was known for high-scoring games this past season.
As was the case throughout the season, and moreso after Wills’ injury, the Patriots’ success wasn’t the work of just one player. Four players, including Wills, made the NCISAA 1A all-state team: sophomores Caitlyn Rodrigues and Madison Clark, as well as Foster, a freshman.
In addition to those four, sophomores Ciara Murphy, Maria Woodrow, Kay Funderburk and senior Katy Leonard earned All-Southern Piedmont Athletic Association honors.
Metzler said that with such a powerful lineup of players that helped the Patriots go 8-0 in SPAA games, success was almost inevitable – but a state title was more than they expected.
“We had a long-term vision (for success), and we had such a young team, only two seniors,” Metzler said. “We were a great team, but the state’s full of great teams who didn’t win it.”
How do the Patriots plan to keep up the success? Simple, Metzler explained: Keep scheduling tough opponents from bigger schools during the regular season and, more important, find ways to win those games.
“There’s not much to improve on when you win a state title and are keeping a lot of your team for next year,” he said, “but we want to get better results against 3A and 4A schools, where we went 3-5-1 this year.
“We have to find success against the big schools,” he added. “If we can do that, we’ll be about perfect.”