Stearns was centerpiece of a dynamic national champion
by Staff Writer
Allison Stearns was dangerous because she could score and equally potent when she didn’t.
Stearns, a Hough High soccer forward, was a deft passer who often set up teammates for scores when she wasn’t pumping the ball into the net herself. She combined those skills as the focal point of the Huskies offense and scored team-highs in goals (22) and assists (20).
The payoff was sensational. Hough went 26-0-1, won the N.C. 4A championship and the country’s title as the No. 1 team in ESPN’s Fab 50 national poll. Stearns, the offensive catalyst, is the Herald Weekly’s 2012 Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“It was just a great experience for anyone on a sports team,” she said. “Our goal was to win the state championship, but we accomplished being No. 1 in the nation. It was a team where everyone contributed and did their part. It was fantastic to be part of something like that.”
Stearns, who will play at UNC Wilmington in the fall, was the main target on most balls that Hough played forward.
“My job,” she said, “was to hold the ball up and move with it, or give a through-ball to one of the other forwards. Sometimes after dishing it off, I’d get it back.”
Opponents often couldn’t handle all those options. Stearns routinely set up capable teammates Brandi Arey (17 goals), Hannah Robinson (16 goals), Morgan Byrne (15) and Courtney Carroll (11).
“Allison is Allison,” Hough coach David Smith said. “We relied on her a lot, and she’d often occupy two (defenders) at a time. Obviously, that opened up a lot of space for others.”
Stearns was named the I-MECK 4A conference player of the year, and the Region 10 player of the year by the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association. She was named to the all-state team for third consecutive year.
“I enjoyed my role on the team,” Stearns said. “I scored some goals, but I also liked helping other girls score, too.”
Stearns said the turning point in Hough’s season was first of three matches against rival Lake Norman. Road game. Unbeaten opponent. Loud crowd. And a 2-1 Hough victory.
“That was probably the best we’d played as a team,” Stearns said. “I remember telling Hannah (Robinson) that we could do this.”
The Huskies finished the magical season with a 25-match winning streak. In the N.C. 4A final against Green Hope, Hough fell behind 1-0, but scored twice in the final 12 minutes.
Afterward, Stearns was among the sweaty captains that hoisted the championship trophy. The Huskies shared hugs, tears and high-fives.
“The bus ride home, wow,” Stearns said. “The first 30 minutes, we were cheering and the music was playing. Then, we all crashed. We were so exhausted.”
Stearns helped Hough maintain the No. 2 ranking in the state 4A poll all season, until it defeated No. 1 Green Hope in the championship. The Huskies are 48-4-2 in their two seasons of existence.