The Myers Park girls’ soccer team lost only two games last season: 1-0 to Hough to open the season, then a 1-0 defeat to the same Huskies team in the 4A state semifinal .The Mustangs (18-2-1, 13-0-1) accomplished a lot in the other 19 games in 2013, winning the Southwestern 4A title and four playoff games. But the pain of their only two blemishes is still fresh.“We were within two shots and a ridiculously good goalkeeper (Hough’s Marnie Merritt) of going to the state finals,” said Myers Park soccer coach Bucky McCarley. “But we didn’t get there. As a result, I think that makes us feel like we are still second-best in Charlotte. For the last few years, we’ve always been second-best to somebody, whether it’s in conference or in the playoffs.“But that pain and that experience gives us an edge now. I think it’s stingy reminder of how close we’ve been and how much we want to it a step further this year.”Myers Park co-captain Virginia McNeill said the team feels McCarley’s words.“Getting so close to the state championship and then not quite reaching it was tough,” McNeill said. “It gives us a lot of motivation from the start this year.”McCarley feels good about the team’s chances with six full-time starters back in the lineup, led by seniors McNeill, an all-state midfielder and Samford signee, and co-captain Suzanne Arant, a center midfielder/center back and Lee University signee.Arant will miss the first several weeks of the season with a knee injury, which may force the Mustangs to lean on McNeill a bit to start. McCarley says McNeill is up to the task, “as a player who has gotten better every year, and been amazingly consistent and proven she has no ceiling.”McNeill and Arant will look for offense from junior forward Blair Anderes, who learned she would be a starter 30 minutes before last season’s opener against Hough. She ended up starting every game, earning all-conference and all-region honors and leading the team with 19 goals.The defense, which must replace all-state defender and SW4A Player of the Year Caroline Alexander (now at Alabama), has quality experience returning in senior Kelsey Jervis (Washington & Lee signee), junior center back Megan Goodling (Davidson College commit) and senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Raby.“I’m looking forward to seeing how our captains and seniors assert themselves as leaders for this team,” McCarley said. “As any coach will tell you, it’s one thing to have returnees, it’s another to be excited about who is returning. We have a tremendous amount of experience in our lineup that knows how to play at a high level.”The group first will look to repeat as SW4A conference champs in a new-look league with Butler, East Meck, Independence, Rocky River, Garinger and Porter Ridge.While that makes rivals like Ardrey Kell, Providence High and South Meck nonconference foes, the Mustangs will play all three in a nonconference slate that also includes East Forsyth, Charlotte Catholic, Hough (twice), Lake Norman and Weddington.McCarley said the competition will help the Mustangs prepare. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect to be in the state finals this year,” McCarley said. “That doesn’t mean we will get there or that anyone is going lay down and let us roll over them, but the proof that we can do it is already there.”McNeill, whose senior class is 48-10-4 overall and 34-5-3 in conference play in their Mustang careers, said McCarley is the team’s constant for motivation.“Bucky will never settle for anything less than our best, from when we practice to the biggest game of the year,” McNeill. “We are motivated by his drive every day. He wants nothing less than a state championship, and we all feel the same way. We don’t plan on stopping until we get it.”
Tuesday, Mar. 04, 2014
Myers Park uses painful loss as its motivation
Five girls’ soccer players to watch
• Virginia McNeill, Myers Park, Sr. – Center midfielder. Samford signee and all-state center midfielder has improved each season.
• Cannon Clough, Charlotte Latin, Sr. – Midfielder/Defender. All-state defender and Charlotte 49ers signee a major factor on offense last season, with 11 goals and 13 assists.
• Lauren Lucas, Providence Day, Jr. – Forward. Chargers’ all-state junior scored the game-winning goal in the state finals last year and joins a talented group with senior all-state midfielder Morgan Mosack (Appalachian State signee).
• Ellie Deaver, Providence High, Jr. – Center midfielder. Two-time all-conference pick and Davidson recruit had an all-region season last year with 19 goals and eight assists.
• Lindsey Tully, Charlotte Catholic, Sr. – Forward. Appalachian State signee and all-state forward must step into a lead role after the graduation of reigning Observer Player of the Year Jane Cline.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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