High school girls soccer: Mead’s speed keyed Falcons

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA —  Man-marked by a determined Atkins defender in the first round of the 3A state playoffs, West Rowan’s Anna Mead was even followed closely to the water fountain.

Now that’s respect.

Mead earned it. The Post’s Rowan County Player of the Year, the striker totaled 27 goals for the Falcons as a senior despite defenses constructed to contain her.

“Over the last few years I watched Anna grow from being a player that other teams noticed to a player they had to game plan against,” former West coach Alan Puglia said. “Especially in the South Piedmont Conference games, Anna was going to see a double team or even a triple team, but she still found ways to produce.”

Mead is West’s valedictorian for the Class of 2023, bright and outgoing, so it’s hard to believe she once was so bashful she didn’t want to play soccer.

“I got started a little late because I really was too shy for soccer,” Mead said. “I didn’t want anyone in the crowd looking at me.”

She finally did get started in the YMCA leagues. And then she got serious — that meant club soccer — because of her passion for fashion.

“The club girls had these really cute uniforms,” Mead said with a laugh. “So I had to play club.”

Her game took off playing for club teams in the soccer hotbed of Lake Norman. She’d car-pool to matches and practices with former Salisbury phenom Sutton Webb, who signed with Georgia before transferring to Mississippi State.

“I wasn’t a scorer in club soccer,” Mead said. “I always played defense, outside back.”

She learned a lot about the game playing against top competition, displayed unusual speed and determination, and was ready to excel by the time she got to West Rowan. Puglia’s defensive-minded Falcons always counted on Mead and classmate Brittany Vanhoose to carry the scoring load.

“I couldn’t have done anything without Brittany’s great passes,” Mead said.

Mead scored five goals as a freshman in a 2020 season that was stopped abruptly by COVID. She scored 16 goals as a sophomore and 16 more as a junior before boosting her total to 27 as a senior. She was honored as South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year, an unusual accolade for a middle-of-the-pack team.

But Mead made an impression on opponents. Carson coach Lauren West called her “a deadly offensive player.”

“Anna is very strong on the ball and has a great sense of where space is on the field, and she’s got that knack for finding the back of the net,” Puglia said. “She’s a tough competitor. She’s the one making the girls laugh at practice, but when it’s time for the game, she’s serious and she’s focused. As a senior, she took being captain to heart, was a leader and always looked for ways to make the team better.”

West (8-9-2) played a stout non-conference schedule, but the biggest games for the Falcons were tense county match-ups with South Rowan and Carson. West swept the Raiders and had a win and a tie against Carson.

“I think that West was the best team in the county and the person that made that so was Anna Mead,” summed up East coach Andrew Poston, whose team played everyone.

Mead had a new wrinkle added to her life at midseason when West counselor/coach Puglia headed back to Pennsylvania for a new job opportunity. After Puglia left, the Falcons were coached by assistant Chris Mead, who is Anna’s father.

“Well, I’d had both my parents as my swim coaches, so it wasn’t all new,” Mead said. “It’s an humbling experience having a parent coaching you. My dad could be hard on me, harder than Coach Puglia, but I knew it was because he had such high expectations. Dad also had shorter practices than Coach Puglia. We liked that.”

Mead is headed to Georgia Southern University as a normal student. Her soccer in Georgia will be limited to the club team or maybe she’ll just set records in intra-murals.

“I’ve had a lot of soccer injuries and a lot of physical therapy over the years,” Mead said. “Injuries cost me two club seasons.So many injuries that I knew I didn’t want to try to keep playing in college. I was going to focus on school.”

She’s been great for West, on the pitch and in the classroom.

She can move on with the pride of knowing she was one of the best the Falcons have had.

“Winning Player of the Year for Rowan County was always a dream for me,” Mead said. “As far as winning for the conference, that’s not something I’d ever thought about or conceived of. We’ve got great teams in our conference.”


All-Rowan County:

Coach of the Year — Sarah Safrit, South

West (4)

Anna Mead — Senior scored 27 goals and is the South Piedmont Conference and Rowan County Player of the Year.

Brittany Vanhoose — Senior midfielder will play in the East-West All-Star Game. She scored 12 goals and had 25 assists.

Evelyn Kwitowski — Senior was a defensive anchor.

Lesli Guerrero — Senior was another key to the defense for an 8-9-2 team.

South (4)

Ava Schleyer — Junior midfielder scored eight goals and was a tough defender.

Cheyanne Hunter — Senior keeper surpassed 500 career saves, plans to walk on at Western Carolina.

Chloe Tracy — Sophomore led the Raiders (10-10-1) in scoring with 13 goals and five assists.

Holly Distefano — Junior midfielder was a key to South’s jump from 2022.

Salisbury (4)

Kyna Zaldivar — Senior leader was all over the place for the third-place Hornets and led the team in assists.

Stella Koontz — Tenacious junior was the backbone of the backline for a 12-8-1 team that exceeded predictions.

Addie Griffith — Sophomore usually paced Salisbury’s attack, scored 22 goals and had nine assists.

Abigail Perez — Senior GK was tough as nails, battled through injuries and posted seven shutouts.

Carson (4)

Allie Martin — Sophomore midfielder had 20 goals and 13 assists despite missing games with a concussion. “Allie is the future of Rowan County soccer,” an opposing coach said.

Alona Locklear — Senior is the Goalkeeper of the Year for the South Piedmont Conference and Rowan County.

Makayla Borst — Leading scorer (24 goals, 11 assists) for 7-11-1 team. The senior finished with 53 career goals.

Emily Landaverde — Sophomore anchored the Carson defense.

East Rowan (2)

Daisy Berry — Sophomore GK  faced a lot of shots, put up huge save numbers.

Lindsey Cook — Senior scored twice in 3-1 win vs. North Rowan.

North Rowan (2)

Daphne Robinson – Senior GK stood out on a 4-16 team.

Abbey Beam — Senior scored key goals for the Cavaliers.