Blue Ridge Early College begins inaugural girls varsity soccer program

Blue Ridge Early College girls now have a team they can call their own after years of female athletes having to join the boys’ team in order to play soccer.

“I think they’re really ready to play on their own team,” said Assistant Coach Brittany Elkins. “A lot of girls hadn’t played in the past because they didn’t want to play with the boys. Now we’ve got 21 girls out there today. It’s really exciting.”

Blue Ridge Early College begins girls varsity soccer program. Pictured above, Ashley Alvarez (right) gets as much time on the field as possible with the rest of the team despite the temperatures in the low 30s.

The idea began when junior Ashley Alvarez saw a stack of boys soccer jerseys in Horticulture class.

“I sitting in Horticulture and coach (Nick Pressler) was looking at guys jerseys and I said ‘why don’t we have those,” said Alvarez. “He said get enough girls to play here and we’ll start a team.”

Head Coach Nick Pressler said the girls have the raw talent and athleticism, they just need some work and time on the field.

“This close to basketball season and with the experience on this team, it’s going to be learning on the fly,” he said. “Those with experience will help steer the ship. With our athletes the way they are, I think we’re going to be fine.”

It was a cold and windy Tuesday and the Blue Ridge girls varsity soccer team used the window of dry weather to hit the field and get some practice time in.

Pressler added that he feels soccer was a good route for the school to take instead of softball.

“I think you’ll see we have a better chance at winning at soccer than we do at softball,” he said. “We’re much more competitive at soccer and I really hope the community comes out to support these girls.”

Of the 21 girls, six have never played competitive soccer, and it’s a young team with only four seniors, said Elkins. A couple of the girls would have played softball instead of soccer, but there weren’t enough girls interested in softball to form a team.

“With a young team you can work with them longer,” she said. “That’s especially helpful working with girls who are new to the sport. We have four 8th-graders coming up who are excited to play and the more we work with this team over time the more improvement we’ll see.”

Blue Ridge girls varsity soccer players are excited to have a soccer team of their own and are determined to put in the work for a successful season.

Sophomore Bailee Collins said she just wanted to get out on some kind of field and compete.

“There’s no softball and I really wanted to play something,” said Collins. “I’m excited about playing soccer and I think it’s really awesome we have a team.”

Sophomore Charlotte Sherril said anything can happen when you start a new program, but is confident in her teammates and coaches to make the season a success.

“I’m nervous but excited,” said Sherrill. “I think it’s going to be an awesome experience to be on the first Blue Ridge girls soccer team. And if we go into it with a positive attitude, I think we’ll do well.”

Spirits are high on the inaugural girls varsity soccer team at Blue Ridge Early College. Editor’s Note: I’m sorry Maddy Potts, you walked by right as they waved to me and I felt it should still be posted.

Sophomore Maddy Potts said that given the lack of time they’ve been able to put in on the field because of inclement weather, and starting soccer fresh on the heels of basketball season ending, she thinks moving forward they just need to put in the work to rack up some wins.

“I think we’re going to come out and be aggressive and I think we’re really going to do well,” said Potts. “We’re young and we’re going to grow into a better team over time.”

There are a few players like Kaitlyn Stewart who have considerable experience on the soccer field and BREC coaches feel they will step up and lead others by example.

Sophomore Brenda Rodriguez has some experience playing middle school soccer was a firm supporter of starting a girls soccer team.

“I’m excited and thrilled that it’s the first Blue Ridge girls team,” said Rodriguez. “And I think if we don’t play dirty we’ll win.”

The girls are committed to improving and working hard , but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the process.

Girls stay positive despite loss in season opener to Swain

The inaugural Blue Ridge Early College girls varsity soccer team after their season opener against Swain County. BREC lost 3-0 but the night was deemed a success for the new team. Editor’s Note: This is not the official team photo, that will still be done later in the season. I thought a team photo after the first game is something that should be captured so I asked them to group up as they were leaving the field. It was cold, they were tired, and they got together without complaint, thank you. Head Coach Nick Pressler was unable to make Thursday’s game and Pressler’s son, Noah Pressler (back left), lent Assistant Coach Brittany Elkins (back right) a hand throughout the game.

After about a week of practice, most of that in a gym, BREC girls varsity soccer team traveled to their season opener against Swain County on Thursday. The Lady Bobcats didn’t pull off the win with a final of 3-0, but players like Gracie Watson said they know what they need to work on and is proud of their performance.

“I expected a little better, but I think we did great for our first game,” said Watson. “They got lucky on those corner kicks and we need to talk more.”

Blue Ridge didn’t put any points on the score board, losing 3-0 against Swain County, but are confident they know what they need to work on moving forward.

Swain County scored 2 goals in the first half and then a third in the second. One of which was a “Bend it Like Beckham” style shot that hooked right into the back of the net. Blue Ridge gave a strong push in the last 15 minutes but couldn’t end up on the scoreboard.

Blue Ridge Dallas Dean heads the ball out of BREC territory on Thursday against Swain County.

Dallas Dean didn’t have high hopes on Thursday going into the game, but thought the outcome could have been worse.

“I think we did better than expected,” said Dean. “We weren’t really talking to eachother out there, but I think we’re going to get better with more practice and working with new people. We’ve never all been on the same team and we’re all trying to work together.”

Blue Ridge Jazi Ferrin takes a line drive to the leg and calmly controls the ball to bring it back the other way against Swain County.

Before the game against Swain Alvarez said she was “utterly terrified.” But felt she had the tools to go out and get the job done.

“I feel through their (coaches) teaching, I’ve gotten more confident in myself,” she said.

Blue Ridge Alicia Minnihan jostles with a Swain County player on Thursday playing away.

Alicia Minnihan played some soccer in middle school but has attended every boys game while growing up and feels she gained a good understanding of the game that paid off on Thursday.

“We didn’t win, but I think we did great,” said Minnihan. “Only a handful of us have played before and we need to get louder with each other and go get the ball more. But our team has talent and by the end of the season we’ll be pretty good. We’ll even step it up by next game.”

Blue Ridge Devon Heenan heads the ball against Swain County.

The Lady Bobcats next play at 4:30 p.m. at home against Hayesville on March 18.

“It’s the Monday after spring break, so it might be a little tough, but the girls will handle it well,” said Elkins. “We know what needs immediate work, and the girls are determined to improve after every game. I’m very proud of how our girls played in our first game!”

Blue Ridge Gracie Watson said one of the things BREC needs to work on is attacking the ball.

Blue Ridge Ashley Alvarez stays with her mark playing away against Swain County on Thursday.

Blue Ridge Brenda Rodriguez sprints for the ball against Swain County.

Blue Ridge Maddy Potts said Swain County could be “scrappy,” and things may get physical out on the field.

Blue Ridge goalie Charlotte Sherrill was making diving saves throughout the night against Swain County.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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