Viking Girls' Soccer Features 13 Sophs
The Union Pines girl's soccer team opened the regular season Tuesday in Raeford against the 4-A Hoke County Fighting Bucks.
In fact, because of the expansion and improvements taking place at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium this spring, the Vikings will be on the road all season. Now, that's not quite as bad as is seems. The squad will simply move down Union Church Road a small distance to play its home games at New Century Middle School.
The Vikes' are coming off the most successful season in Union Pines' history. Last year, the Vikings finished with a record of 21-1-1, winning both the Cape Fear Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles before losing a heartbreaker in a 1-0 overtime match to Western Alamance in the second round of the state 3-A playoffs.
Union Pines has a pair of proven goal producers starting in the two forward positions of its 4-4-2 formation.
Senior captain Brittany Thurlow, who was an all-region and all-conference performer in 2007, scored a team-high 25 goals last year to go along with nine assists. Sophomore forward Ana Pilson received the Cape Fear Valley Conference Sportsmanship award in 2007 and was the team's offensive player of the year. As a freshman last year, she scored 20 goals and led the team with 10 assists. Thurlow said it appears that the 2008 Vikings are more versatile than the 2007 team.
"Our team is able to work together better," she said, "it doesn't just revolve around one person scoring the goals, now we can work it from the back, then work it (back) to the top -- we have so many players that can score and that is a good thing."
Pilson thinks the preseason went well and the team is having much more fun than they did last year.
"We have a strong midfield and I feel like we can be as good if not better than we were last year," said Pilson, "but I don't think it will come as easily."
Hayes feels his team is doing many things well up top, but is just not putting the ball in the goal yet.
"Right now the way it appears, I think we need another goal scorer," he said.
Sophomores Kacey Graner and Kayla Lively will anchor the Vikes middle four. In 2007, Lively earned all-region and all-conference honors as a center-midfielder. Graner won the team's rookie of the year award last season.
"I am very happy with the way with our midfield," Hayes said.
Lively is also excited about Union Pines' middle line.
"We have all kinds of players that are ready to run and ready to play," she said, "we are used to competing at the high school level now -- we are taking the hits and hitting back."
The Vikes' lost three key fullbacks to graduation. Sara Savage's absence will provide the biggest hole for Hayes to fill on his defensive line. In 2007, as the mainstay of a Union Pines' defense that picked up 13 shutouts, Savage was the conference player of the year and earned all-region and all-state honors. Fellow graduates and defenders Courtney Sauer and Caroline Lea were all-conference performers.
Junior Candice Hogan, the team's defensive player of the year in 2007, is the fullback most likely to lead the defense. Sophomores Taylor Smith and Amelia Duerner will be key components to the Vikes' back line. Hayes was concerned early in the preseason about his defense but is now confident in it.
"Smith stepped up in the role of a sweeper very well and it happened early," he said. "I feel great in the back with Taylor and Amelia, they both can play the sweeper spot well."
Union Pines figures to be strong once again this year at the keeper spot.
With Senior Jessie Puszynski and sophomore Summer Hennings manning the cage, goals should prove hard for Viking opponents to come by. Last season the two shared keeper duties as the team tied a school record with 13 shutouts.
Puszynski feels that this year's team has bonded more as a core in the preseason, than in years past.
"Our large group of sophomores (13) are all used to each other now," she said, "and this year we are much more cohesive and friendly."
(All home games will be played at New Century Middle School)
Feb. 27 -- 6 p.m. at Hoke County; 29 -- 6. p.m. at S.W. Randolph
March 3 -- 4 p.m. Western Harnett; 4 -- 5:30 p.m. at Asheboro; 7 -- 4 p.m. North Moore; 10 -- 7 p.m. at Overhills; 12 -- 7 p.m. at Southern Lee; 17 -- 5 p.m. Gray's Creek; 18 -- 5 p.m. Terry Sanford; 19 -- 7 p.m. at Harnett Central; 25 -- 5 p.m. Chatham Central; 26 -- 7 p.m. at Pinecrest; 31 -- 5 p.m. Triton
April 2 -- 7 p.m. at South Johnston; 3 -- 7 p.m. at Lumberton; 14 -- 5 p.m. Southern Lee; 16 -- 7 p.m. at Gray Creek; 17 -- 5 p.m. Overhills; 21 -- 5 p.m. Harnett Central; 23 -- 7 p.m. at Triton; 25 -- 7 p.m. at Scotland; 28 -- 5 p.m. South Johnston (Senior Night); 30 -- 7 p.m. at Western Harnett
May 7 -- state playoffs begin
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