Pilson, Vikings Soccer Rebound in 2009
For the Union Pines girls' soccer team, their recent season marked a swift return to form.
After a lackluster finish last year, which saw them go 10-8-2 and place fourth in the final league standings, the Vikings (15-4, 12-2) won the 2009 3A Cape Fear Valley (CFV) conference championship and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs with first-year head coach Jessica Edmiston at the helm.
In many ways, Viking forward Anna Pilson's junior campaign coincided with the Lady Vikes return to glory. After struggling through an injury-riddled sophomore campaign, in which she scored just three goals and ultimately left the team late in the season, Pilson returned to the pitch in triumphant fashion this year.
Not only did she lead the Vikings in goals (14) and assists (17) but she was just one of two CFV conference representatives on the All-Region team.
Pilson admitted that before the season began she had a difficult time deciding if she was even going to play soccer.
"My confidence was at an all-time low," Pilson said, "but after a lot of convincing I decided to play, and it was the best decision I could have made. I went into the year at 100 percent and tried to play at that level the entire season."
Much more precious to her than the accolades she achieved on the pitch, Pilson admitted she accomplished a personal goal with her consistency and ability to stay with a goal.
"I wanted to prove to everyone that I was better (as a player) than they saw last year," said Pilson. "Moreover, I really wanted to prove to my dad that my priorities had not changed and that I was still a focused soccer player.
"It feels very rewarding that my hard work and dedication paid off; all region is a very big accomplishment (for me), hopefully next season I can make all state."
As a freshman on the 2007 Union Pines team, which went 21-1-1 and won the CFV title with a 14-0 record, Pilson was the Lady Vike offensive MVP leading the team with 10 assists, while scoring 20 goals.
"I was honored just to be a part of this team when we won conference." she said. "After leaving before the end of last season, it made me proud to think that I had given my all by making a positive contribution during our championship run. I think everyone was ready to give it their all this year, especially with finishing so low last year. We were ready to show everyone that we were number one."
The first time Edmiston saw Pilson on the practice field she knew the youngster was a gifted player.
"Anna is an amazing athlete," Edmiston said, "and has a great touch on the ball, which affords her many outstanding chances on goal. Anna has always had the ability to be a very successful soccer player; she just needed someone to believe in her."
Joining Pilson on this year's CFV All-Conference team for Union Pines were: juniors Kayla Lively, Taylor Smith and Summer Hennings; freshman Carly Lively and lone senior Candice Hogan.
Juniors Ellie Reynolds and Melissa Hoffman, along with freshman Jessie Wilson, all earned honorable mention.. Kacey Graner, also a junior, won the CFV Sportsmanship Player of the Year.
This year's Lady Vikes consistently battled the injury bug as they dressed only their full complement of starters and top reserves for three of 19 matches.
"It took a team effort on all parts to overcome all the obstacles we faced this year," said Edmiston. "This all helped us to become stronger and play better as a team. The key word is team. These girls are great friends on and off the field but are still competitive against each other.
"Our freshmen Carly Lively and Jesse Wilson really stepped up big. Carly, despite back injuries played amazingly and showed her athleticism. Jesse is a superb defender that will come back even stronger next year."
Lively had three game-winning goals late in the season and finished the year as the Vikes' second leading scorer with 13 goals. Her older sister Kayla, a junior captain midfielder and two-time all region selection, was recently named Union Pines High School's female athlete of the year. She finished the season with 10 assists and six goals.
With her entire squad slated to return next season, aside from senior captain fullback Hogan, Edmiston feels the Lady Vikings' future successes rest squarely upon their collective shoulders.
"This team has a lot of talent without realizing it," said Edmiston.
"They need to be disciplined and pushed further than they were this year. Even with our accomplishments this season, these girls still could have done even better."
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by email at email@example.com
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