After years of struggling in one of the best girls' soccer conferences in the state, the MECA 7, Jay M. Robinson broke out last year, winning the South Piedmont Conference in its inaugural season in the all-Cabarrus County league.
The Bulldogs, who were 14-8 overall, dominated the SPC, going 12-1-1 in conference play, outscoring their league opponents 71-15.
This season, despite having a younger team, Robinson hopes to have similar success and is on track to , starting the year at 5-1, including 3-0 in the SPC. Bulldogs' coach Todd Spinnell and his team, who are ranked No. 8 in the state, know it won't be easy this time around.
"Everybody wants to be the best team in the county," said Spinnell. "I think having an all-county league makes it that much more difficult. We know we will get everyone's best shot."
While Robinson moved from 4A to 3A, Mount Pleasant is still adjusting from the move up from 2A a year ago.
The Tigers were respectable in their first year in the SPC at 11-10, 7-7 in league play, but hope to be stronger this season.
Coach Kelly Williams' team has started strong at 5-1, 1-0 in the SPC, with the brunt of their schedule just ahead of them.
While Robinson looks to stay on top of the conference, Mount Pleasant will look to make a statement to rest of the league by defending their home field Friday night.
Jay M. Robinson
On paper, Robinson should have no trouble winning the SPC again. But games and leagues aren't won on paper and the Bulldogs know they have their work cut out for them.
Junior forward Isabel Bernal, a two-time All-SPC player, is the leader so far this year, having goals and four assists on the young season.
Sophomore forward Cassie Nelson has emerged as a solid compliment to Bernal, starting the year with six goals.
The Bulldog offense has been solid, outscoring their opponents 33-5 (as of March 25), but will be challenged more as they face the stronger teams in the SPC in next few weeks.
Senior defender Rachel Eklund will be a big key in stopping the Bulldogs' opponents as she, along with senior Sammie Mogabgab, tries to help a young defense contain the Tigers' potent goal scorer, junior Amanda Lavook.
Robinson will get one of the biggest tests of their season at Mount Pleasant, where the Bulldogs won 8-1 last year. It could be a tight game this time around.
Mount Pleasant knows they will be the underdog when Robinson visits Friday night, but after nearly beating the Bulldogs a season ago at home and with how they've played so far this year, the Tigers have proof that they can compete.
Lavook, an all-SPC and all-region selection a year ago, has the firepower and talent to score at any moment. Lavook and her Tigers will look to counter Robinson's attack and get some transition opportunities early.
Mount Pleasant's Casey Enderlein will also play off Lavook and hope to help up top.
The Tigers' defense also needs to step up and help limit the number of Robinson shots on goals.
Mount Pleasant will have to play smart and push the tempo to have a shot to win the game.