Cabarrus

Midfielder came up big for Bulldogs in her final season

Outside of goals, assists and saves, soccer is not much for numbers. That's why a player like Jay M. Robinson's Rachel Eklund can sometimes go unnoticed.

What the graduating senior may have lacked in goals and assists over the years, Eklund has produced in ball-control, savvy and leadership for her Bulldogs.

It is for these reasons that she is the only player in Robinson's ten years to be named all-conference and all-regions in three seasons.

Eklund's graduation earlier this month ended a run in which she helped Robinson to four playoff appearances, two conference championships and a second consecutive run to the third round of the state tournament.

The Eklund name preceded her to Robinson. Rachel's sister, Kelli, was a solid player for the Bulldogs, graduating in 2007. The following fall, Rachel entered Robinson as a freshman with high expectations.

Bulldogs' coach Todd Spinnell was already familiar with her, not only as the sibling to a former player but as a head-turning middle-schooler attending Robinson youth soccer camps.

"I knew I was getting a quality player when she was coming in," said Spinnell. "Her footwork was impressive. As a seventh-grader I saw the ability and she was tall for her age. So I new she was going to be something special."

Eklund, who also played basketball at Robinson through her junior year, sure had a special start to her high school career.

In her first varsity scrimmage game, she scored the team's first goal in a 4-3 win over Monroe Sun Valley.

She went on to be a full-time starter her first year, playing center-midfield and some defense. In a season when Robinson posted an unusual conference record of 6-1-5 in the now defunct ME-CA 7, Eklund notched two goals and three assists.

Playing in its final year in 4A her sophomore year, Robinson again earned the conference's fourth seed in the state playoffs. With its defense depleted from the previous year's graduation, Eklund experienced a position change but became more productive offensively than she was as a freshman.

Eklund tallied eight goals and four assists and was named the team's most valuable player. She was named all-conference and all-region.

When Robinson was reclassified to 3A in 2009 and became a member of the South Piedmont Conference, Eklund emerged as a two-way force back at midfield, being able to trigger an offensive push and also neutralize the opponents' top scorers.

With the Bulldogs taking first place in the league, Eklund pushed in five goals and assisted on three others. She earned her first of two All-SPC nods was again named all-region.

This season, Robinson had just three seniors and Eklund was named a captain with her fellow classmates Sammie Mogabgab and Sam Walker. Despite the team's youth, the Bulldogs won the SPC, sharing the title with Cox Mill, and won two games in the state playoffs.

"I thought we all worked well together," said Eklund of the team's captains. "Sammie Mogabgab ran the defense. Sam Walker, as goalie, could see the field really well. I helped lead the offense and at midfield and we collaborated well together."

Eklund scored eight goals, including three in the playoffs, and had a career-high eight assists. Spinnell said Eklund would have been credited for numerous other "hockey" assists during the season, meaning she often made the pass before the pass that assisted on a goal.

In addition to Spinnell, Eklund credits her club soccer coaches at Charlotte Soccer Club, FC Carolina Alliance and North Mecklenburg Soccer Club for helping her become such a disciplined and knowledgeable player.

Eklund decided to not pursue soccer as she attends South Carolina in the fall, where she plans to major in nursing.

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