3 words inspire Parkwood girls’ soccer to winning season
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Tuesday, May. 20, 2014

3 words inspire Parkwood girls’ soccer to winning season

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/15/17/13/hHe55.Em.138.jpeg|209
    - COURTESY OF TRENTON MCWHORTER
    Parkwood girls’ soccer player Hannah Pressley is the second-leading scorer on the team, with 10 goals, from the sweeper position.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/05/15/17/13/P2q87.Em.138.jpeg|209
    - COURTESY OF TRENTON MCWHORTER
    Anna Boda, left, scored the game-winning goal against CATA to give Parkwood soccer the conference championship.

The same three words are at the bottom of every Parkwood girls’ soccer weekly schedule sheet: strong, relentless and competitive.

Those three words inspired the team to new heights this season.

After winning only three games in each of the past three seasons, coach Julie Johnson and her Rebel team have had their best year in some time, going 12-5 overall (through May 15), including 10-0 to win the Rocky River Conference.

Parkwood’s move back to class 2A and the RRC after playing 3A in the Southern Carolinas conference played a role in its success. But Johnson says this team was different from the start.

“Those three words – strong, relentless and competitive – have really defined this team all year,” said Johnson, who is in her fourth year as Parkwood’s head coach. The team picked the words together during a preseason meeting. “We wanted to make a statement in every game we played. We’ve not only had a stronger mentality overall, but we’ve also been relentless in every game – no matter who we were playing. These girls have proven that all season.”

After a solid 4-3 start to the season, Parkwood hit its stride in the final month of the regular season, winning seven of its final nine games, including a 1-0 victory over Central Academy of Technology and Arts, which finished second in the RRC, on April 23.

In the regular season finale, the Rebels clinched the Rocky River Conference title with their 2-1 double overtime victory over the same CATA team on May 7.

Parkwood freshman center midfielder Anna Boda scored what proved to be the game-winning goal two minutes into the second overtime session, when she took a throw-in pass, beat her defender and ripped a left-footed shot into the net.

For most of the game, Boda, who leads the team with 12 assists, was matched up against her twin sister, Molly, who plays the same position for the CATA team.

Parkwood senior co-captain Erika Morelock, who leads her team with 34 goals, scored the game’s first goal 10 minutes into the game on a shot from 40 yards out.

Overall, the Rebels outscored league foes 58-3 in the regular season.

The defense also had a lot to do with the team’s success, led by senior co-captain sweeper Hannah Pressley, defenders Brooke Aytes and Marissa Duncan, and freshman goalkeeper Riley Benito.

“This whole season has been about how strong our whole team has become, not just one or two players, but all 16 girls,” Morelock, 18, said. “To win the conference title the way we did, beating (CATA) in double overtime, made it even sweeter. This team has been relentless all season, and I feel like we really deserved to win it.”

“We had no interest in sharing a conference title,” Johnson said. “We wanted it all to ourselves, and we earned it.”

Pressley, 18, is the other four-year starter on the team. She says the season was a culmination of everything they’ve worked for.

“To win the conference title made every little thing that we’ve done, everything we’ve worked for in the last four years, make sense and feel even more worth it,” said Pressley, who is the second highest scorer with 10 goals. “It feels really good to be a part of bringing the winning tradition back to Parkwood.”

The girls’ soccer team was inspired by the Parkwood football team, whose run to the 2A state semifinal galvanized the whole school.

“I think we looked at the football team and could really relate to them, and what they have been through in the past and then what they did this season,” Morelock said. “We’ve even gotten advice from their players on what they did mentally and physically to prepare for the big games. We felt like if they could do it, then we were capable of doing the same kind of success.”

While the Rebels have already played in big games, they believe there still could be more to come in the playoffs. Parkwood beat Maiden 5-0 in the first round of the playoffs and played East Lincoln in the second round May 16.

But no matter how the season ends, what Parkwood has accomplished won’t soon be forgotten.

That includes producing two college soccer players this year in Morelock, who signed with Wingate, and Pressley, who has signed with the University of Texas-Pan American. Those signings make three collegiate soccer players in the last two years, as Morelock will join former Rebel Maggie Smith at Wingate.

“We have six freshmen on this year’s team and many even younger girls who want to be a part of this team in future,” said Johnson, who played collegiately at Clemson. “Erika and Hannah are going to be players that they all look up and see that you can play here and get to the next level. I think there is a whole new level of expectation and hard work.”

Morelock and Pressley feel good about what the 2014 team has started.

“I feel like this is just the beginning of what this team can accomplish now and in the future,” Pressley said.

“In the past, teams would say ‘Oh, it’s just Parkwood, we can treat this like a practice,’ ” Morelock said. “But this season, we came out with a bang, and I think teams are saying: ‘Wow that Parkwood team is good, and they just beat us.’ I believe we are only going to get better.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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