Highlands girls varsity soccer team taken down in 2nd round of playoffs

After dominating the first round of All-State Tournament playoffs against Elkin 8-2, the Highlands girls varsity soccer team lost in the second round to undefeated-defending state champs Union Academy in Monroe, N.C. on Saturday 9-0.

“Girls played hard, but Union Academy is the best 1A school I have ever coached against by far and the best team we have played at any level this season by far,” said Head Coach Jeff Weller.

The Lady Highlanders won the first round of the state tournament at home against Elkin on May 7 and were defeated by defending state champions Union Academy on May 11 in Monroe, N.C.

Several of those in attendance at Saturday’s game said Union Academy was the best girls-high school team they have ever seen. Weller said games can be tough when playing against a charter school.

“We are a small school that only draws from our legal geographic area,” he said. “A charter school, especially around Charlotte area, draws from a huge area with significant numbers of people. I can’t recruit players in any way. Charter schools can recruit and control their enrollment. Put simply, charter schools and public schools are not on a level playing field in any way and should not be in the same group when playing in state playoffs.”

Highlands Madi Drummonds steals the ball and then drives down field against Elkin.

Weller added that since he has been coaching, Highlands has only lost to a public school in the state playoffs 1 out of 10 seasons, the remainder have always been charter schools. All that said, Weller couldn’t be prouder of the girls’ effort.

“I would just say that after over 5 hours in an activity bus, the girls played extremely hard against a very strong defending state championship team,” said Weller.

Highlands Reese Schmitt tries to avoid Elkin’s goalie while trying to score at home on May 7.

After beating Elkin at home on May 7, Highlands Reese Schmitt said they played the ball to feet, had good passing, and solid communication. Knowing Union Academy was next on the agenda was a bit intimidating.

“I’m a little nervous playing the 2nd round,” said Schmitt. “I feel like we’ll be fine if we settle down and keep passing to feet.”

Highlands Kedra McCall takes the ball back from Elkin’s defense after a short goal kick gone wrong.

Highlands Kedra McCall had a rough collision late in the game with an Elkin player and flipped over landing on a previously injured shoulder taking her out of the game. By that point, the win had already been solidified and Highlands was ready to move forward.

“We played incredible,” said McCall. “We stepped it up a little in the second half and turned on the jets. We came into this game knowing they were good, but we know we’re good and just stuck to our game and got it done.”

Highlands Ryan Talbert makes her move to cross the ball against Elkin.

Highlands Ellen Diehl said the defense worked in sync throughout the game holding Elkin to only two goals.

“Our defense worked as a team and we talked a lot,” said Diehl. “Plus, we really listened to our coaches more and that helped.”

Highlands Hayley Borino maintains control working the back line and moves the ball up field.

Highlands will lose seniors Betty Garcia and Grace Crowe. Crowe a former goalie turned team-manager, but Weller said next season sans Garcia and Crowe has a lot of potential and he looks forward to adding some new freshman to the roster. Things may a bit smoother the next time around by not having to begin at ground zero, but to build on the successes from the current season and keep building as a team, said Weller.

“We will be a force in our conference next year,” he said. “We will miss Betty on the field and will miss both Betty and Grace on the sidelines. I feel we will be strong next year and are setting our sights on the conference championship and a strong run in the state playoffs next season.”

Highlands Brandy Zagal boots the ball up the sideline against Elkin at home.

Highlands Chela Green threads the needle between two Elkin players.

Highlands will lose seniors Betty Garcia and Grace Crowe. Head Coach Jeff Weller said their leadership will be missed both on and off the field.

Highlands Julia May Schmitt moves a line-drive kick further up the field with a header.

Highlands goalie Alyson Dayton sends the ball to the other side of the field.

Highlands Sayla Roman heads the ball against Elkin.

Article and Photos by Brian O’Shea
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