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Itâs one simple word that is changing the complexion of the Maiden womenâs soccer program.
Last season, Maiden held a 5-12-2 overall record, were 2-12-1 in the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference and scored 18 goals for the entire season.
So far this season, the team nearly doubled its total victories from a year ago with a 9-5-1 record. They hold a 5-2-1 conference mark and have scored 26 goals.
Third-year coach Dennis Ly said the change is due to a couple of reasons.
âThere is unity,â Ly said. âThese girls get along real well, from our freshmen to our seniors. Last year, I had a lot of girls that liked to play soccer. This year, I have three freshmen that came in and have played soccer their whole lives. We are finally getting soccer players. You mix that in with girls that love to play soccer, and it is a great combination.â
The trio of freshmen â Katie Foster, Rachel Pritchard and Rachel Good â became a catalyst for their team in a number of ways. They have been playing soccer together since they were 3 years old.
âI think that because weâve been playing with each other so long, we know where we are going to be,â Pritchard said. âWe know what moves we can make, and where we need to put the ball to put the other person in scoring position.â
The unique relationship between the seniors and freshman on the team helped propel the team into on-field success.
âThe seniors work really well with the freshmen and underclassmen,â Good said. âIt is like having an extra coach on the field. We get along really well.â
Sam Ardrey, who plays defense along side Foster, said she feels comfortable having the freshman by her side on the field.
âIt is so great to have someone with so much experience on the defense,â Ardrey said. âIt is just unreal. I have been playing since I was 6. Even as long as Iâve been playing, Iâve learned so much from Katie. There is no end to what I can learn from her.â
Senior Nhoell Inthavong said the main reason for getting along so well has been a mutual appreciation for one another.
âJust because they are underclassmen, it doesnât mean that we are better than them,â Inthavong said. âWe treat them like they are in our grade. We donât have senior group, and they have their freshmen group. We are all grouped together.â
Pritchard has become a secondary offensive threat the Lady Blue Devils needed. She has scored nine goals this season and leads the team in assists with 13.
Teaming up with Pritchard is senior Cinderella Yang, the teamâs leading scorer with 16 goals. The two make a formidable offensive tandem.
âMy leading scorer is a senior, but my leading assister is a freshman,â Ly said. âThe freshman is giving the senior the ball, and my senior is putting it in the net. I also have a senior that is second in assists. It has all worked out.â
Aside from working on the practice field together, the players have made it a tradition to hang out in coach Lyâs office and eat together before games.
âWe get to know each other a lot better than just saying âhiâ in the hallways,â Foster said. âWhen you are a freshman, you have different classes than seniors. You arenât really together in school. So when we do things, like eat together, it brings us closer.â
The tight-knit bond that the team shares became their motto for when they step on the game and practice fields.
âWhen we get out of the huddle, we donât say âteamâ or âdefense.â We say âfamily,ââ Ly said. âThat is what we are. They are a bunch of young ladies, and I consider myself their big brother. They like doing stuff together off the field together. We have taken an âus against the worldâ mentality, and it has all worked out.â
When Maiden was struggling last season, the reception for the womenâs soccer team wasnât positive.
âWhen soccer came up in a conversation, weâd be told we suck or that we were going to lose,â Inthavong said.
Now that the Lady Blue Devils are experiencing success, many people in the community are starting to take notice.
âThis season has been great,â Foster said. âMaiden girlâs soccer hasnât been here that long, but people are really starting to notice. Iâve had non-soccer people come up to me and ask me how the soccer team is doing. We just want to continue to do well this year.âView more articles in: