Cabarrus County soccer is on the rise. This year, the top teams in the South Piedmont Conference proved that, as the league's co-champions, Jay M. Robinson and Cox Mill, had their best seasons to date.
The Bulldogs won a school-record 17 games, while going 13-1 in SPC play and matching their best playoff run by advancing to the third round of the 3A playoffs.
"We were very dominant to start the season and then we had some injury issues that we battled late in the season," Jay M. Robinson girls' soccer coach Todd Spinell said. "We only lose three seniors and return eight starters for next season as we look to three-peat (as conference champions). It will be very difficult, but our girls are up to the challenge."
Meanwhile, Cox Mill won a school-best 18 games in their second year as a program. The Chargers lost in the second round of the postseason, but return nearly their entire team for next season.
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Mount Pleasant, Hickory Ridge and Northwest Cabarrus also made the playoffs and had strong seasons to build on.
The public schools weren't the only ones to step up this season, as Cannon School and First Assembly made progress in strong conferences - the CISAA and Metrolina Athletic Conference, respectively. The Cougars and Eagles made the NCISAA playoffs, but lost in the first round.
Cabarrus News girls' soccer player of the year: Isabel Bernal, Jay M. Robinson
Isabel "Izzy" Bernal only knows one speed. Whether she is starring for Jay M. Robinson on the basketball court or on the soccer field, she always gives it her all.
After playing a supporting role during her first two seasons at Robinson, scoring 25 goals and dishing out 12 assists in that time span, Bernal stepped into a lead role this year with 20 goals and 10 assists to nearly double her career numbers.
But Bernal's value to her team can't be measured in statistics alone. Spinell said the junior consistently wins 50-50 balls and sets the right example for her younger teammates by doing the "little things," and winning the hustle plays all over the field.
Bernal has already established herself as one of the top players in the SPC, but she has one more year to prove she is one of the best players ever to lace up her cleats for the Bulldogs.
Cabarrus News girls' soccer player of the year: Todd Spinell, Jay M. Robinson
Spinell and his Jay M. Robinson girls' soccer team get better and better every season. This year, Spinell and the Bulldogs had their best year statistically to earn their second straight SPC title in as many years in the league.
Spinell earned SPC and Region coach of the year honors in the process of leading his team to the third round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Spinell, 71-39-11 in his six years as the head girls' coach at Robinson, hopes the future is even brighter.
All-Cabarrus News girls' soccer team
Isabel Bernal, Jay M. Robinson: All-region junior forward had a great offensive year in a lead role for her Bulldogs.
Cassie Nelson, Jay M. Robinson: The next great Robinson forward began her ascent this season with 15 goals, six assists.
Amanda Lavook, Mount Pleasant: Tigers' scoring machine had FILL goals this year.
Denay Hayden, Cox Mill: Chargers' top offensive weapon will again be one SPC's best next year.
Kirsten Long, Hickory Ridge: Filled some big shoes this season after Kristen Smith decided not to play senior season.
Anna Estep, Cannon: Freshman is already Cougars' top offensive weapon.
Rachel Eklund, Jay M. Robinson: All-region senior midfielder is one of the best players ever to play at Robinson.
Erica Merriman, Northwest Cabarrus: Trojan scored more than 100 goals in her standout high school career.
Logan Long, Cox Mill: SPC Player of the Year as only a sophomore has a big-time future.
Kaylee Akers, Cox Mill: Talented midfielder is one of Chargers' top playmakers and goal-scorers.
Mikayla Shaw, Jay M. Robinson: Two-time all-region midfielder is just a sophomore.
Sammie Mogabgab, Jay M. Robinson: Bulldogs' team most valuable player was the defensive anchor for a team that gave up only 21 goals.
Mollie Calloway, Cox Mill: Shutdown defender was also a big part of Cox Mill success.
Christine Fail, Cox Mill: Senior teamed up with sister Katie and Calloway to make life difficult for opponents.
Rachel Dyl, Cannon: Another talented freshman with All-CISAA talent.
Liz Thompson, Hickory Ridge: Two-time all-region keeper kept young Ragin' Bulls in games.