Eight teams from the three local area conferences will begin play this week in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association girls softball tournament. Two teams from each of the South Fork 2A, Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference and four from the Northwestern 3A-4A will compete, with the first round scheduled to begin on Monday.
Each of the four classifications in the NCHSAA will have 32 teams in its respective brackets with the first three rounds, as well as regionals, scheduled at school sites around the state. The finals site has yet to be determined at the time of this preview.
NOTE: For the preview, coaches were asked who they consider their key players, as well as the keys for their team’s success. Unless noted, stats listed are provided by the team.
NCHSAA GIRLS SOCCER TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE:First Round: Monday, May 3
Second Round: Wednesday, May 5
Third Round: Friday, May 7
Regional: Tuesday, May 11
Final: Saturday, May 15
2A WESTNo. 9 Hendersonville (12-0-1)
at No. 8 Fred T. Foard (12-0-1)
About Fred T. Foard (playoff record 10-11):
Coach: Stan Elliott
Key offensive players: F Anna Schmidt; F Samaria Tipps.
Coach Elliott said of the two, “Schmidt has been our most consistent goal scorer all year and Tipps has been surging as of late. Both of these forwards have been solid all year.”
Key Defensive players: GK Alexis Wolgemuth (1 goal allowed). D Bianca Tamas. “Anchors the backline and has been a key component to our success,” said Elliott.
Coach’s keys for success: “To continue doing what we have been doing and that is playing hard and with skill.”
Outlook: The Tigers have just 56 goals with 27 of those coming in three mercy-rule wins and seven others in a fourth game. However, the Tigers are patient in their attacks. Defensively, they are tough to organize attacks against. However, when teams can find openings, Wolgemuth’s field vision anticipates the oncoming play well. She is also a weapon on long-range free kicks around the midfield stripe, setting up teammates in the 18-yard box. Foard finished off its four-year term in the Northwestern Foothills 2A unbeaten in league play since 2018. These teams met in the second round of the playoffs in 2018 with the Bearcats winning 4-3. Foard advanced to the third round in 2019.
Winners of the Mountain Six 2A Conference, Hendersonville will put the Tigers to the test on offense, as evident by the 68 goals scored this season. Senior Aubrey Bish leads the attack with 17 goals and senior Miriam Smith has handed out ten assists. Goalkeeper Emma Cannon has given up four goals on 18 shots. The Bearcats have made deep runs with 2A West final appearances in 2017 and 2019, and a quarterfinal run in between. The last two losses overall have ended the last seasons, both against Lake Norman Charter.
Next up: No. 16 Central Davidson (7-3) at No. 1 South Point (14-0)
No. 12 East Lincoln (11-3)
at No. 5 North Davidson (11-1)
About East Lincoln (playoff record 18-16): Coach: Jason Dragoon
Key offensive players: Deana Poteat, Jr (9 goals, 2 assists); F Abby Hege Fr. (12 goals 30 shots on goal); MF Grace Harpster, Fr (3 goals, 6 assists). Dragoon mentioned that Poteat missed several games and was fifty percent for others. She scored 19 goals her freshman year. He describes Harpster as a play creator from midfield.
Key defensive players: CB Cambell Vanderhaar, Jr; MF Devin Poteat, Jr. “Cambell is carrying a knock at the moment,” said Dragoon. “But is a leader on our team with lots of experience running a back line, she has pace and strength and is very smart on and off the ball.” Dragoon had high praise for Poteat, saying she “can play several positions at a high level for us, she reads the play well defensively and is an excellent ball winner in midfield, she is strong and explosive as a player.”
Coach’s key for success: “We are very young with 5 juniors, 7 sophomores and 3 freshmen getting most of our playing time… We move the ball well and are very organized, we just have lacked some finishing in moments early in games to put teams away.”
Outlook: Outside of perennial 2A state contender Lake Norman Charter, East Lincoln was the class of the South Fork 2A Conference in all three completed seasons, going 11-3 each year. Of the 22 goals the team allowed this season, half came in the two matches against the Knights. East Lincoln spreads the scoring around with its 53 goals spread among 14 different players. Abby Hege is the lone player in double figures in goals. The Mustangs are looking to get to the “Sweet 16” for the first time since reaching the 2A quarterfinals in 2016.
North Davidson (4-13 playoff) won the Central Carolina 2A Conference with the only loss against 4A unbeaten Ronald Reagan. The Black Hawks have 58 goals on the season, but 27 of those were against their three non-conference opponents. Freshmen twins Keelan and Kyndall Moore are the top-two goal scorers with a total of 36. Senior Emma Berrier has 15 goals and 12 assists. The Black Hawks have a playoff win each of the last two tournaments, which includes a 2-1 victory over East Lincoln in 2018.
Next up: No. 13 Forbush (10-1-1) at No. 4 Central Academy (12-2)
No. 10 Hibriten (12-1-1) at No. 7 Lake Norman Charter (14-0)
About Hibriten (playoff record 29-19):
Coach: Shea Bridges
Key Offensive Players: F Abby Kidder, So. (24 goals, 12 assists); MF Charis Keen Jr. (10 goals, 5 assists); F Reagan Cline, Fr (9 goals, 7 assists)
Key Defensive Players: CB Haley Crowe, Fr.; CB Darby Keen, Fr; RB Anslie Norris, So.; LB Caiden Ingram Fr, GK Rylee Conard So (3 goals allowed); MF Emily Elliott, So.; MF Mayra Tejamanil, Fr.
Coach’s keys for success: “We are an extremely young and hard-working team. We look to be very competitive and gain as much experience as possible in the playoffs...To be successful in the loaded 2A playoffs our girls will need to put together a complete game… One game at a time!”
About Lake Norman Charter (playoff record 27-8)
Coach: David Crutchfield
Key offensive players: F Asha Means, Sr. (31 goals); MF Eliza Rich, Jr. (17 assists). “This combination is unstoppable at times,” said assistant coach Kerry Rasenberger. “Their knowledge, skills and speed makes them important.”
Key defensive players: D Reese Robinson, Jr.; Kirsten Brady, Sr.; D Bri Hatch, Jr.; MF Kaela Rasenberger, Sr. “Reese and Kirsten are extremely strong center backs,” said Rasenberger. ”They are great at understanding how to read the field and communicating to help their defense be impenetrable.”
Coach’s key for success: “Besides having a few highly talented, committed players, our team runs very deep with experienced club soccer players. Having more depth in a HS team gives us a better understanding of soccer and stronger technical and tactical skills.”
Outlook: Hibriten, which finished second in the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference, is a young team that continues to develop and has the chance to develop into a powerhouse over the next few seasons. Only one goals has been scored by a senior. Kidder is a skill shot creator with speed in the middle and the ability to dribble around defenders. The Panthers, which advanced to the round-of-16 in 2018, will have their hands full with the Knights.
Champions of the South Fork 2A Conference, Lake Norman Charter scored 121 goals and allowed just two. Only 11 of the 14 matches went the full 80 minutes. The Knights are the back-to-back defending 2A West champs with the state final loss in 2019 coming in penalty kicks. They are skilled and experienced and hungry to win their first state title since taking the 1A championship in 2013.
Next up: No. 15 Pisgah (9-2) at No. 2 Wilkes Central (14-0)
No. 16 Watauga (9-4) at No. 1 Crest (12-1)
About Watauga (18-23 playoff record):
Coach: Chris Tarnowski
Key offensive players (stats from MaxPreps): Georgia Parker, Fr. (11 goals, 5 assists); Shaelyn Sheaff (11 goals, 15 assists).
Outlook: Watauga finished in a tie for second with St. Stephens, then lost a tiebreaker 2-1 to the Indians last Friday. The Pioneers four losses came against league champion Hickory and the Indians. Twelve of their 16 goals allowed came in those four losses. The Pioneers have at least one playoff win the last three seasons, with a third-round appearance in 2019.
Crest lost the season opener 1-0 to Forestview, then won 12 straight to win the Big South 3A Conference. The Chargers put together a 79-7 scoring margin this season with five wins by a 9-0 mercy-rule win. Crest is just 4-9 in the playoffs and looking for its first playoff victory since 2011.
Next up: No. 9 Asheville (12-2) or No. 8 NW Cabarrus (10-2)
No. 15 Marvin Ridge (10-3-1) at No. 2 Hickory (12-1)
About Hickory (playoff record 27-24):
Coach: Brian Jillings
Key offensive players: F Madeline Mosteller, Jr. (23 goals, 13 assists); MF Addie Barrier, Jr. (12 goals, 15 assists); F Jayden Fralick, Fr. (10 goals, 5 assists); F Litzy Hernamdez (7 goals, 4 assists). Brian Jillings describes Mosteller as “a relentless, fast front runner who loves to run at defenders.” He added that she and Barrier work well together and is a crucial part of the team’s success.
Key defensive players: MF Brooke Rowland, Sr. “A four-year starter who is critical in the midfield as both an attacking threat and her defensive work rate,” Jillings said. “A great leader for us.” GK Taylor Rose, Jr. (four goals allowed, 68 saves); CB Taylen Light, Sr. “Has chipped in offensively as well with her ability to attack the ball on set pieces.”
Coach’s key for success: “I love our team and think we can cause some problems for teams in the playoffs. For us to be successful, we will need everyone invested, working hard with and without the ball, making good decisions when questions are asked of us. If we can keep things tight in the back and are ruthless in front of goal, we can have a good showing.”
Outlook: Outside of a 2-1 win over St. Stephens and a late charge by Watauga, Hickory blitzed the Northwestern 3A-4A Conference, winning the title outright for the first since 2017. Despite what happens in this tournament, the Red Tornadoes very well could be a force in 2022, as the top four goals scorers are back, as is Rose, the keeper. Hickory has split playoff games each of the last four seasons and it is looking for the first round-of-16 visit since 2014, when the Red Tornadoes lost at home to Marvin Ridge. Oddly enough, the last six times Hickory has been eliminated has come in a home loss.
Marvin Ridge closed out the regular season 4-0-1, which included a tie against Charlotte Catholic, to finish third in the Southern Carolina 3A Conference and claim a wildcard berth. The Mavericks tend to play low-scoring affairs with 27 of their 48 goals this season coming in three 9-0 mercy-rule wins. Junior Lily Jones leads the team with 12 goals, as is the only scorer with more than five tallies. Marvin Ridge is 34-11 in the playoffs with the 2010 3A championship in tow. They reached the state quarterfinals in 2019.
Next up: No. 10 Forestview (10-1-1) or No. 7 Charlotte Catholic (11-1-1)
No. 12 St. Stephens (10-3) at No. 5 SW Guilford (11-1-2)
About St. Stephens (21-21 playoff record)
Coach: Tina Voudouris
Key offensive players: MF Mira Fogle, So. (4 goals, 6 assists); F Juliette Hessong, So. (25 goals, 11 assists). “Mira is a key player to watch in distribution and composure,” said Vourdouris She has 4 goals and 6 assist going into playoffs. She is the glue and builds the foundation in which we play.”
Key defensive players: D Olivia Beanem Jr.; D Lillian Hedrick, Fr.; GK Ashley Laney, Jr. Voudouris said, “Olivia has outstanding leadership and is beyond passionate about her play and the team. Lillian, although she is a young player, has really stepped up to the plate in any position on defense.”
Coach’s key for success: “The lady Indians will need to do what they do best and that is having fun and possessing the ball. They will need to keep their confidence up and take on every minute of each game with all that they can.”
Outlook: After sub .500 seasons from 2016 to 2018, the Indians went 11-10 in 2019 and showed life by winning the first four in 2020 before the season shut down. St. Stephens gave a hint to this season by playing Watauga – the co-champs the last two completed seasons – to a 1-0 loss. A 2-1 loss to Hickory two matches later showed the Indians were for real. The finished in a tie for second in the Northwestern 3A-4A with Watauga, then won a tiebreaker game last Friday for playoff seeding and got a wildcard berth. They are now looking for their first postseason win since 2015.
SW Guilford won the Piedmont Triad 3A Conference, but with just five matches in the league, the Cowboys are one of the few teams to play mostly non-conference matches. All of that, however, came against non-playoff teams. Senior Kendall France leads the Cowboys with 22 goals and junior Maddie Vaughn has ten assists. The Cowboys are 51-22 in the playoffs and won four titles from 1995 to 2002. SW Guilford reached the Sweet 16 in 2018.
Next up: No. 13 Jesse Carson (10-3) or No. 4 AC Reynolds (12-2)
No. 15 Page (9-3) at No. 2 South Caldwell (4-8)
About South Caldwell (1-6 playoff record)
Coach: Heath Swanson
South Caldwell claimed the Northwestern 3A-4A Conference’s only 4A bid and got a second seed in the random draw held by the NCHSAA. The Spartans scored just seven goals this season, but a pair of 1-0 wins over McDowell – the other 4A school in the conference – was enough to get into the post season. South Caldwell’s only postseason win came in 2018, when it edged Ardrey Kell 1-0.
Page, located in Greensboro, was second in the Metro 4A Conference and received a wildcard berth with a 46-11 scoring margin overall. The Pirates are 54-29 in playoff history. They reached the round-of-16 in 2019.
Next up: No. 10 Lake Norman (12-2) or No. 7 South Mecklenburg (11-0-1)