Porter Ridge goalkeeper Taylor Ray sees the game from a different perspective.
While the other 10 players on the soccer field concentrate their efforts primarily on getting the ball forward to score goals, Ray’s focus is on keeping the ball out of the net.
For the past four years, the Porter Ridge senior has defended her goal at a high level. Ray has been a part of 44 wins, including 39 career shutouts, and is allowing less than a goal per game (0.79) for her career.
“As the goalkeeper, I get a view of the whole field and what everyone is doing, and what I see and tell my teammates sets the stage for everything we do, everything starts going forward,” Ray said. “I’m always thinking about what I can do to stop the other teams from scoring. There’s no better feeling than playing your heart out and getting a shutout. Just knowing you shut down a team for 80 minutes and didn’t let them have anything to show for it is one of the best feelings in the world. Getting a shutout is my goal in every game.”
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Ray regularly frustrates opposing offenses with her ability to make game-changing plays and saves for Porter Ridge.
As a junior, Ray, earned all-region and All-Southwestern 4A conference honors for her efforts, allowing 18 goals in 23 games in a season where she had 13 shutouts. She accomplished all of that on a Porter Ridge team with nine freshmen.
Porter Ridge soccer coach Ron Ladimir, the only head coach in the decade of the school’s existence, says Ray makes the spectacular save look ordinary because she does it so often.
“I can’t even tell you how many game-changing saves she has made over the last four years, because she has had so many,” Ladimir said. “Taylor’s ability in the goal changes our entire team. We know that in a lot of games, if we can take advantage of one or two opportunities and score then we are going to have a great chance to win, because she isn’t going to let them score. That allows our entire team to play freer and to take more chances on making plays.”
So far this year she has surrendered just nine goals in her first 10 games, including five shutouts.
She gets a lot of help from her back line in the Pirates’ 4-5-1 alignment, which consists of center backs junior Amber Freeney and sophomore Amanda Padilla, and outside backs seniors Heather Wogan and Hailey Naifeh and sophomore Tori Hilse.
After going 13-4-6 last year (9-2-1 in SW4A conference play), finishing second only to Myers Park in league play, the Pirates are hoping for a breakout season.
To do that, Porter Ridge (6-2-2 through April 1) hopes to produce more offensively, where sophomore forward Lizzie Alexander, who has missed past month with a foot injury, should be back soon to help jump start the attack.
Samantha Rodriguez has filled in nicely up top, and the midfielders – sophomore Gracyn Lewis and senior Alyssa DiCristo – provide plenty of firepower for the offense.
“We are definitely looking for that big win for this team,” said Ladimir, whose team is still young with 13 sophomores. “We’d love beat or tie a Myers Park (they host the Mustangs on April 21) or get another huge result, but it is not going to be easy. I believe that is the next step for this team.”
As the stretch run of her final high school comes into view, Ray hopes she has a lot of big games at Porter Ridge left to play in.
Ray is used to playing in big games. She also plays club soccer for the Charlotte Soccer Academy ECNL U18 team with some of the area’s top talent.
“When it’s time for me to do my job and make a big play or a big save, I look forward to the pressure of those situations and I thrive off of them,” Ray said. “I like when the attention is on all me to make a big save for my team and I come up with a big play.
“When you make a big-time save and the crowd goes wild, you get this high and want to do it again and again.”
Ray will continue her soccer career at Appalachian State next year, where she says she “already feels at home” with her future coaches and teammates, several of whom are also club teammates.
But first, Ray hopes to make a few more memories with her Porter Ridge soccer team.
“We have done a lot of good things in last four years at Porter Ridge, but I’m hoping this last season is the best,” Ray said. “We finished second (in conference) last year, and before that it was fourth or fifth. It would great to win a conference title or go deep in the playoffs to third round or better. We all want to accomplish something that people will remember us for.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.