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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Girls stay positive despite loss in season opener to Swain
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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!”