Two years ago, Julia Grainda watched from a wheelchair as her teammates on Community School of Davidson’s girls soccer team won the school’s first state title.
Grainda finally got her shot to play for a state title, and made up for lost time in leading the Spartans to their second N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 1A state championship in three years.
The senior forward earned most valuable player honors by scoring two goals and assisting on two others as Community School of Davidson routed Franklin Academy 5-1 on May 28 at N.C. State University’s Dail Soccer Field in Raleigh.
“It is so satisfying,” Grainda said. “I’m so happy for everyone. I knew we could do this from the beginning of the season. We set goals and we stuck with them.
“By me being able to play, I felt I could contribute a lot to the game. The last time, I was sitting in a wheelchair. It was really emotional for me to be able to play this year.”
In 2014, the Spartans beat East Carteret in the NCHSAA 1A state final 2-1, winning in a penalty kick shootout, but Grainda wasn’t on the field. She suffered a broken leg in CSD’s Western Regional final win over Gray Stone Day.
That game – and having to miss the entire 2015 season with a knee injury – was on Grainda’s mind going into the 2016 state final.
“I remember (two years ago) rolling in here, and I was able to walk in here this time,” said Grainda, who has committed to UNC Charlotte.
And this time, Grainda had an impact on the game.
The Spartans’ first goal came less than a minute into the match, when Grainda headed a corner kick from Lissi Gordon off the crossbar and into the net. After Gordon scored in the 18th minute, she added an assist on Grainda’s second goal of the half in the 28th minute to put Community School of Davidson up 3-0 at the half.
“That took a lot of pressure off our backs,” Grainda said. “But we still had to keep the mentality that we couldn’t give up. We could focus on possessing the ball instead of just going straight to the goal each time.”
But with Franklin Academy making Grainda, she instead set up her teammates to score in the second half. She assisted on Anna Lavella’s goal midway through the period, and a minute later did the same for Kendall Miller to put the Spartans ahead 5-0.
“I shared my vision with the team about Julia holding up the trophy upright,” CSD head coach Chad Solomonson said. “Two years ago, she held up the trophy in her wheelchair. This year, to see her be able to lift it up strong and feeling great was a really good feeling.
“It’s a huge comeback story – she’s fought back through so much adversity with her injuries.”
13 earn all-state honors
Eleven players from Lake Norman-area high schools were named to the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association’s all-state teams, and two coaches were among those named the NCSCA’s coaches of the year.
Solomonson shared the NCSCA’s Public 1A state coach of the year award with Woods Charter’s Graeme Stewart, while Pine Lake Prep assistant Daniel Alburger was named the Public 1A state assistant coach of the year.
It was the third straight year that Solomonson was named the NCSCA coach of the year. He earned the award outright in 2015, and shared it with Tarboro’s Leshaun Jenkins in 2014.
Area players named to the NCSCA’s all-state teams were:
▪ Public 1A: Julia Grainda, senior forward, Community School of Davidson; Peyton Pruitt, senior defender, Pine Lake Prep; Cassidy Wheaton, junior defender, Community School of Davidson.
▪ Public 2A: Danielle Collanino, junior forward, East Lincoln.
▪ Public 4A: Kristin Brown, senior defender, Lake Norman; Alex Denny, senior forward, Hough; Mary Manser, senior midfielder, Lake Norman; Riley Orr, senior defender, Lake Norman; Ashlynn Serepca, sophomore forward, Hough.
NCSCA all-region coaches, players
Solomonson was also named the NCSCA’s Public 1A coach of the year for Region 8, and Hough High’s David Smith shared Public 4A coach of the year honors for Region 11 with Mallard Creek’s Kelly DePompa.
In addition, 55 players from Lake Norman-area high school teams were named to the NCSCA’s all-region teams:
▪ Region 8-1A: Alexandra Baker, Lincoln Charter; Lissi Gordon, Community School of Davidson; Julia Grainda, Community School of Davidson; Maggie Hoey, Lincoln Charter; Nicole Hogue, Lincoln Charter; Abby Kidder, Pine Lake Prep; Grace Kwiatkowski, Community School of Davidson; Anna Lavella, Community School of Davidson; Gina Perna, Mountain Island Charter; Peyton Pruitt, Pine Lake Prep; Savannah Reitz, Pine Lake Prep; Eliza Robinson, Community School of Davidson; Carrie Simpson, Lincoln Charter; Meghan Smith, Lincoln Charter; Cassidy Wheaton, Community School of Davidson; Ryan Winseman, Pine Lake Prep; Sophia Wesenburg, Mountain Island Charter; Erin Wright, Pine Lake Prep.
▪ Region 9-3A: Emily Cheshire, South Iredell; Brooke Freeman, South Iredell; Julia Knapp, South Iredell; Kayla Noon, South Iredell; Meaghan Quinn, South Iredell; Rachel Rios, North Lincoln.
▪ Region 10-4A: Alex Denny, Hough; Claire Eve, North Mecklenburg; Emily Fuerst, Hough; Ashley Johnson, Hough; Madison Oracion, Hough; Anna Roach, Hough; Ashlynn Serepca, Hough; Sarah Steedman, Hough; Ashley Whittaker, Hopewell.
▪ Region 11-4A: Kristin Brown, Lake Norman; Skylar Chilson, Lake Norman; Bailey Howell, Lake Norman; Mary Manser, Lake Norman; Tierney Murphy, Lake Norman; Riley Orr, Lake Norman, Jessie Peters, Mooresville; Sylvana Salice, Lake Norman.
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: BKiserCLTObs@gmail.com.