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Entering its third year of existence, the Carroll County High School girls soccer team is feeling strong and ready to add some hardware.
Following the annual black and gold intrasquad scrimmage July 28, head coach Greg Damron said he and assistant coach Vernon States agreed that this year’s team is “at the point we were at the end of last fall. It’s like we picked right back up and kept going.”
With district realignment this season, Carroll has a chance of bringing home the 31st district title. The 31st district is composed of Carroll, Henry, Owen and Gallatin.
“I think we have a real good shot of putting a banner in the gym and for a third-year-program, I think that’s unheard of,” Damron said. The tournament will be held Oct. 8-9 at Owen County.
The Lady Panthers have shown a lot of growth since its first season three years ago. In year one, the program was just starting to build, and the more experienced girls who had played on the co-ed JV team taught their teammates how to play the game, Damron said. In year two, a slew of girls came out for the team and a JV team was established.
While the numbers are lower this season, Damron expects to pick up a few more girls during the first week or so of school. He said he needs two or three more to create a JV team, which is important to have because it provides the younger players with additional experience. The Lady Panthers expect to carry 6-8 seniors next season.
This year’s theme is MTXE: Mental Toughness and Extra Effort. Damron explained this means being mentally prepared for games, in the classroom and on the practice field.
In preparation for this season, Damron said the girls have been doing a lot more running and getting in better athletic shape. He thinks this year’s team will be a lot more successful than last year’s squad, which finished 4-5-3, the first four wins in program history.
Those who played JV last year have improved by “leaps and bounds,” and the head coach said he was pleased with their progress.
Four seniors will lead the varsity squad: Jordan Bailey, Lyndie Burns, Raenah Hawkins and Lidia Jimenez.
Damron said Bailey is a valuable utility player who gives “110 percent any time she’s on the field. … She’ll give everything until she just passes out.”
Last year was Burns’ first year playing soccer, and Damron said she spent a lot of extra time before and after practice to improve her game. “She has a knack for putting herself in the right spot.” Damron said he will use Burns as a wing or striker.
Hawkins, known for having a strong leg and a fierce competitiveness, will anchor a solid defensive line. “She doesn’t have a problem putting you on your butt to get the ball,” Damron said. “… She can drive (the ball) as far as any experienced player I have.”
On the offensive side of the ball, striker Jimenez will lead the charge.
“She’s had a ball on her foot since she was little,” Damron said. “… You’re going to have to take her down or get out of the way. I look for her to be the big scorer this year.”
Others seeing significant playing time are junior goalie Nicki States and sophomore Kirsten Arvin.
Damron said States “has taken off” and is twice as good as last year. Arvin, a sophomore, has already made some spectacular shots in practice and he looks for her to do some amazing things for the team this year.
Damron also highlighted junior Kaylin Wallace. “During British soccer camp this season, (boys head coach Ben Crutcher) was telling me they want her to play with them because she’s so fast and physical with the ball,” he said.
Last year, Damron asked JV captain Vanessa Arteaga to be a leader and make the squad her own. He said this experience has helped the junior to grow as a player this season.
The Lady Panthers also will welcome a new addition to their team in Quinn Breeden, a junior transfer student from Virginia. Damron said he is just waiting on the paperwork to go through from KHSAA. He said the girls are excited to play with the center midfielder, and she was a “welcome surprise” to the team, especially since all three of last year’s seniors played midfield.
The girls will play their annual breast cancer awareness game Sept. 17. The team will sport pink uniform T-shirts, which will also be on sale. Proceeds will benefit Relay for Life.
The team also will host a game benefiting the Carroll County Animal Support Aug. 27. Fans will be asked to bring canned food items to the game to benefit the group. While he is still working on the logistics, Damron said the girls will wear their regular home uniforms, but will be encouraged to paint cat whiskers on their face or wear their hair in pig tails.