WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Huskies girls soccer team is back on the field for the 2019 spring season, with a solid core mixing youth and experience. The team will play 19 regular season games, 10 of them at home.
One stark contrast between the team and their male counterpart is the lack of a junior varsity squad. Head coach Paul Winterton said the lack of JV games comes as a mixed bag.
“The good part is that we can have our whole team playing together and have the younger girls in the rotation,” Winterton said. “The only downside really is playing time. It’ll be really hard for the younger players who should be starting on a JV team to break through the varsity lineup in a meaningful way. I like it though, all of the players will get their shots and we can have everyone play better together.”
As the young season progresses, young players are already making their marks. Freshmen goalkeeper Sophia Kiser and midfielder Katie Woods are already playing meaningful minutes while leaving a mark, and sophomore Jernee Ashley is building off a strong campaign from last year as the first-choice striker.
On the other end of the spectrum is the senior core that’s built a backbone for the team. Led by midfielder Sam Woods, converted-defender Emma Calloway and forward Haley Miller, Winterton said the older players are stepping up into new roles.
“A lot of girls, not only just the seniors but a couple juniors and sophomores, are stepping up as leaders,” Winterton said. “There’s so much chemistry and encouragement, during the pre-game warm-ups the other day, I saw one of my sophomore players take a freshman off to the side and teach her stuff one-on-one how to do certain things. The captains are there, doing their parts, but a whole lot of others are stepping up as well.”
The team will look to build on a positive goal difference from last season, edging it out with a +9 at the season’s end. The team took multiple heavy losses early in the season, muddying the final number, and Winterton said he’s moved Calloway to the back line to fill the gap left by senior departures.
Naturally a midfielder, Calloway has impressed Winterton so far, leading him to change his attitude from a short-term to long-term solution.
As a whole, the team graduated six seniors, while four would-be seniors opted to not play this season. One, Katelyn Tester, left a sizable hole as the starting goalkeeper. Stepping into her shoes has been freshman Sophia Kizer, who’s already put in some standout performances as the first-choice number one.
“The coaches for Watauga were shocked when I told them (Kizer’s) a freshman,” Winterton said after the team’s game against Watauga, March 5. “I see a lot of great things coming out her in the future.”
A key matchup this season for the Huskies will be against the Starmount Rams. A perennial power in the conference, they split the series with one win apiece last season. Winterton also pointed to Wilkes Central and Elkin, saying that the Huskies will have to overcome those opponents if they hope to make a run at a conference title after finishing second last season.