High school girls soccer: Four Rowan teams hit the road as underdogs

Published 5:57 am Monday, May 15, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Monday playoff games?

It’s hard to know what to expect with that unusual dynamic, but the Rowan girls soccer teams that qualified for the 32-team brackets do know they’re getting bus rides.

North Rowan drew the most time-consuming trip. The Cavaliers will play Swain County. It’s a long way to Bryson City, and a lot of it is uphill.

Based on seeds, none of the Rowan teams are supposed to be around for Thursday’s Round 2 — other than as paying customers — but we’ll see what happens.

Sometimes teams with awesome records played in shaky leagues and got over-seeded a bit. Not saying that’s the case here, but we’ll hope for the best.

Its a fact that all four Rowan underdogs — none are seeded better than 26th — will be taking on conference champs in the opening round. Well, champs or co-champs. Swain County only tied for first place.

Most of Rowan’s girls soccer tradition has been carried by the Salisbury Hornets over the years. That’s not exactly a brilliant revelation that will shock anyone.

The Hornets were definitely were in a rebuilding mode this season but made the most of it. They still had the county’s best record (12-7-1) and highest conference finish (third).

Salisbury’s girls haven’t been as dominant as Salisbury’s boys over the years, but the buzzing ladies still are a solid 23-20 all-time in state playoff games and they qualify for the playoffs as surely as the sun rises in the east.

The rest of the Rowan schools haven’t been overly successful. West Rowan is Rowan runner-up in historical girls soccer success. West is the state playoffs for the 15th time and owns five lifetime playoff victories.

Carson, which narrowly missed out on the playoffs this season, has made the postseason nine times and can boast of two playoff victories. South Rowan, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018, has one playoff win to its credit. North Rowan has never won a playoff match, while East Rowan has never made the playoffs.

Monday’s first-round games: (26) Salisbury at (7) Wilkes Central in 2A; (26) West Rowan at  (7) Atkins and (28) South Rowan at (5) Hickory in 3A and (27) North Rowan at (6) Swain County in 1A.

Salisbury: Matt Parrish coaches the Hornets, so they’re sound and fundamental and are guaranteed to max out on the talent they have. The Hornets have outscored opponents 70-25.

Abigail Perez is a tough goalkeeper — the county currently has a bumper crop of goalkeepers — and Perez has hard-working defenders in front of her. While the Hornets don’t post stats on MaxPreps, Addie Griffith and Maddie Crabb have produced a lot of goals, while Kyna Zaldivar has initiated a lot of the scoring.

Wilkes Central (13-5) has pummeled opponents by a cumulative 104-25. Anne Rollins has scored a whopping 47 goals, while Riley Huffman has 26. Cora Wymbs is a quick defender and might be able to take one of the scorers out of it.

West Rowan: The Falcons will take a modest 8-8-2 record into their 3A playoff game in Winston-Salem against the Atkins Camels. West played a challenging non-conference portion of the season and is probably somewhat better than its record. West went 5-0-1 against Rowan teams. Four losses were to strong Lake Norman Charter and Central Cabarrus squads.

The Falcons are being guided now by interim coach Chris Mead after head coach Alan Puglia returned home to Pennsylvania during the season.  Puglia was defensive-minded, and the Falcons still reflect that. Goalkeeper Emily Kelly has resembled a wall often enough that West has outscored opponents 51-34. Evelyn Kwitowski is tough on the defensive end and Lesli Guerrero is versatile for the county’s most experienced team. A high percentage of West’s scoring is done by Mead’s daughter, Anna. She’s scored 27 goals, more than half of West’s total. Brittany Vanhoose, a midfielder, has battled injuries but has 25 assists and was selected to play in the prestigious East-West All-Star Game.

Atkins (17-2-2)  has totally demolished opponents 139-10. Allison Weibking has score 36 goals, while Charlise Grimes has 23.

South Rowan: The Raiders (10-9-1) are quite young and while they lost both of their games with West Rowan, the Falcons were impressed by how much the Raiders improved between those games. South’s leading scorer is Chloe Tracy, who has 13 goals. Ava Scheyler and freshman Cailynn Withers have scored eight each. South’s senior keeper Cheyanne Hunter has 159 saves for the season and more than 500 for her career. South has been outscored 56-51 for the season.

Hickory (18-2-2) looks like a tough opponent for the Raiders. Mia Zulueta leads the Red Tornadoes with 26 goals. Hickory has won eight in a row and allowed only 13 goals this season, while racking up 74.

North Rowan: Outscored 85-14 this season, the Cavaliers (4-15) still did enough to make the 1A West playoffs.

Swain’s Maroon Devils (14-4-1) outscored opponents 67-18 and got 20 goals from Mya Burrows-Kurr.