Northwest Cabarrus and Jay M. Robinson were both factors in their conference races and in the playoffs last season. But the Trojans were in the North Piedmont conference (NPC) and the Bulldogs were a member of the 4A ME-CA 7. Both teams spent a lot of time in shadows of perennial state powers Lake Norman and North Mecklenburg.
This season, both teams have taken over the top spots in the South Piedmont in the first-time all-Cabarrus County league.
Northwest Cabarrus, 13-0-3, 11-0-1 in first-place, has yet to lose a game, but has struggled a bit down the stretch tying Robinson (11-7-1, 11-1-1) and Hickory Ridge to give the Bulldogs a chance to share the SPC crown.
Robinson, in second place, has not lost a league game since falling to Northwest 5-3 on March 23rd. The Bulldogs and Trojans played to a 3-3 tie April 23rd.
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Both Northwest Cabarrus and Robinson will likely host home playoff games today and hope to make a deep run into the 3A bracket.
The third best team in the SPC was also a newcomer to high school soccer in general, as Cox Mill finished 15-4 (10-3) in their inaugural regular season. The Chargers, led by coach Christa Mooney, will have to go on the road. So, anything they can accomplish in the postseason would be a bonus to what appears to be a very bright future.
Despite winning 17 games in each of the last two seasons, the Trojans have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
Northwest Cabarrus, No. 15 in the state, hopes to re-write the history books in what will be a home playoff contest in the first round.
The Trojans have the talent to do it with all-everything forward Erica Merriman and her sister, Shannon, leading an offense that averages nearly five goals per game. Brandi Deal and Rebekah Jackson are also big offensive contributors.
Northwest's defense has also been solid, allowing just over a goal per contest, with a freshman in Savannah Cox becoming a bigger and bigger factor.
Jay M. Robinson
After struggling mightily in the non-conference part of their schedule, going 0-7, the Bulldogs have righted the ship in SPC play, and should have momentum going into the 3A playoffs.
Like Northwest, Robinson would benefit greatly from hosting a playoff game rather going on the road.
Senior Becky Darnell can be a one-woman wrecking crew as she can score goals in bunches.
But the Bulldogs have yet to defeat a team outside of their conference, and they must prove it on the field in the playoffs.
The Chargers have been a pleasant surprise in their first season as a program under head coach Christa Mooney. Cox Mill, who has only lost to Northwest, Robinson and West Rowan so far this season, could make another huge stride if they can win a playoff game.
Sophomore Kaylee Akers and Denay Hayden will have to provide some offense, which has been stagnant. , Mollie Calloway will counted on to lead a young defense against a strong opponent on the road (1st round playoffs).
Two more SPC teams will likely make the playoffs, but Hickory Ridge and Mount Pleasant will be playing a top seed on the road, and won't be an easy task to advance to the second round.
The Ragin' Bulls and Tigers have pulled several upsets in conference play, and anything can happen in a one-and-done format like the playoffs.