When Marnie Merritt is in the goal, she doesn’t like anything to get by her, whether she is playing a game, in practice or just for fun with her friends.
For the past three seasons, Merritt, a two-time all-state goalkeeper at Hough High, hasn’t allowed many of her opponents to achieve their goals or score them.
Merritt, 17, had 18 shutouts in 24 games last year, and has 40 career shutouts for the Huskies.
The Hough senior, who plays for Lake Norman Soccer Club, is one of the top players in her position in the country, according to topdrawersoccer.com and is also in the U.S. National team pool for U20 age group.
But none of that changes her humble approach to everything she does on the soccer field.
“I try to treat every shot on goal, whether I am at practice or in a game or whatever, the same,” Merritt said. “I don’t like being scored on and I do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen. But you know eventually you are going to get scored on. So, you have to deal with it and move on. You always have to focus on the next shot.”
Merritt’s intensity and passion for the game has played an integral part for a Hough girls’ soccer team that it 69-7-2 in their first three years as a program.
In her freshman season when she split time with Emily Rusk, Hough (22-4-1 that year) got to the 4A state semifinals. The last two seasons, Merritt has been a driving force in goal as Hough won the 4A title her sophomore campaign and lost in the state finals last year 2-0 to Green Hope.
“Marnie (Merritt) has been a tremendous player and tremendous leader for this team for the last three years,” Hough girls’ soccer coach David Smith said. “She knows how to have fun and keep people loose, but when its game time, she is all business. Having her in goal, allows us to a do a lot of thing others team can’t. I think we can take a lot more chances offensively, knowing she is back there.”
Merritt is quick to give credit to her teammates for her success.
“I love being a part of this team and I owe everything I’ve accomplished to my coaches and teammates,” Merritt said. “Without them, I would never have accomplished anything.”
Merritt is just a part of a loaded Huskies team this season with eight starters back, including five college soccer signees.
All-state midfielder Courtney Carroll (also an Ole Miss signee), who had 19 goals and 16 assists last season, will lead the way up top, where the Huskies also have the speedy Sarah Moon (Appalachian State signee), Nicole Duncan (Catawba signee) and sophomore Ashley Johnson.
The midfield is also in good hands with junior Emmily Cowie joined by Northwest Guilford transfer sophomore Anna Roach and senior Nicole Ferren (Belmont Abbey signee).
The defense will also be strong with seniors Emma Cangalosi and Blair Timberlake back as starters.
Merritt admits the Huskies are playing with something to prove.
“My sophomore (2012) season when we won it all, that was one of best things I’ve ever experienced,” Merritt said. “Then last year was great, but to lose in the finals was heartbreaking. So, this year we are hungry to get back to the state championship and win. We want to prove that it’s (state championship) ours and take it back.”
To do that, Smith says Hough needs to have a constant focus on the present moment.
“We (Hough) try not to get caught up in thinking about the big picture,” Smith said. “If you look too far ahead, you might miss what’s right in front of you. So, we try to focus on getting a little better every day. In the end, we believe that will put us where we want to be.”
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