Prep Soccer: Parker, Gibbons to play for Catawba
By Ryan Bisesi
MOUNT ULLA — They’re growing up, but not splitting up.
Allison Parker and Brittany Gibbons have been a two-headed soccer behemoth in Rowan County for over a decade and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
The pair who played together on multiple travel teams, and throughout middle and high school will play together at Catawba next year.
Parker thinks that’s pretty cool.
“We both know how each other plays,” Parker said. “That’s going to be a plus. (Gibbons) signed there first and I had no clue where I was going.”
A 5-foot-8 defender who also played basketball, Parker went on visits at Lees-McRae and Carson-Newman, but Catawba’s comforts made her feel more at home.
“I thought I would want to go to a far-away school at first,” Parker said. “The further I went, the more I realized I didn’t want to go far away. Catawba has a good campus and a good program for my major. It was a good click once I realized where I wanted to go.”
Despite that she plays in the back, the 2009 County Player of the Year has an offensive element to her game. Her scoring strength was highlighted in a four-goal effort against North Rowan earlier this season. She often comes up to take corner kicks and free kicks and currently has eight goals and an assist, helping the Falcons to a 8-1 start which includes a 5-1 mark in the 3A North Piedmont Conference.
“When they score, I kind of put it upon myself and it normally makes me work harder to keep it from happening again,” Parker said. “I like having control of everything. I never liked being scored on.”
An All-County, All-Conference and All-Region selection in 2010, Parker was an integral part of the Falcons winning their first-ever playoff game last season.
West’s success this year is a culmination of Parker’s goals since she started playing in first grade. The goal this year is to win the conference, something the Falcons have never done.
“I always said when I was in middle school, ‘I want to come to the high school and beat Salisbury, be No. 1 in the conference and I want to make everybody know who West Rowan is,’ ” Parker said.
Although the Falcons dropped their match with Salisbury in a competitive 2-1 game in the Rowan County championship, plenty of eyes gathered on Mount Ulla after a huge 2-1 win at Statesville last week to put West in the drivers seat in the NPC. West is currently ranked ninth in the state among 3A teams.
“We were jumping on each other and it was the craziest thing,” said Parker of the Statesville celebration.
“She’s a natural born leader,” said West coach Nick Brown, who played at Catawba before graduating in 2005. “She always wants the best out of herself and the best out of her teammates.”
Brown, also Parker’s club soccer coach with FCCA Freedom, thinks she has an opportunity to get significant playing time as a freshman.
“I think Allison can work on her quickness a little, but she has the chance to step in and play next year,” Brown said. “I have no doubt she’ll work hard over the summer to get better.”
Parker, who’s sister Rebecca also plays for West, plans to major in education.
Gibbons is reserved when it comes to talking about her self.
But in last week’s monumental win against Statesville, the normally calm striker for West had to emote what a large step the victory was for the program.
“I cried because I was so happy,” Gibbons said. “Coach was like, ‘Are you hurt?’ ”
Gibbons, who scored the go-ahead goal against the defending NPC champs, has a distinct familiarity with nearby Catawba, which won her heart after giving looks to Charlotte and Lees-McRae. Along with teammate Parker, Gibbons signed with the Indians on National Signing Day in January.
“Since I was like 5, I’ve been to summer camp there,” Gibbons said. “I wanted to go to a smaller school since the classes are smaller. I love it.”
Gibbons has 12 goals and nine assists after scoring in the 6-1 win at East Rowan Tuesday night and has the scoring touch that earned her the County Player of the Year in 2008. Gibbons has been a scoring threat for the Falcons since her freshman year and continued to rack up goals despite the defensive attention. She was all-North Piedmont Conference and All-County the past three seasons and an All-Region choice last year.
“I don’t think we’ve played the best we can yet this year,” Gibbons said. “Winning conference is our main goal.”
Gibbons says she will room with Salisbury’s Karen Presnell, another All-Region player who chose Catawba. Gibbons played with Parker on the Rowan Rage, Lake Norman and FCCA Freedom travel teams. Her sister Jessica also plays for the Falcons.
“Leading my team and working hard have been my main focus,” Gibbons said.
Her first three seasons, Gibbons scored a team-best 65 goals and totaled 53 assists, good enough for 183 points. Last year, she scored 29 times while adding 22 goals as a sophomore and 14 as a freshman.
“She loves to play soccer,” Brown said. “I love her attitude and the fact that she always wants to be out there. She’s got that passion and that desire.”
“She had 29 goals last year, but also had 19 assists, so she’s not a selfish player at all.”
Gibbons says she needs to get stronger and improve endurance to excel at the college level. Next year will be the first year in some time that Brown will have not coached her.
“It’s about the closest relationship I have with just about anyone besides my parents,”said Gibbons of her coach.
“It’s a special moment for me,” Brown said. These girls have been like daughters to me. They bring so much life to the team. I couldn’t be prouder.”