Story by: Griffin Pritchard | Publisher
Photos Courtesy: Opelika High School Soccer
OPELIKA – The Opelika High Varsity Girls Bulldogs Soccer Team gets to rest during the first round of the playoffs, drawing a bye into Round Two. That’s where the real challenge of being pitch perfect begins as the Bulldogs will travel to either No. 6 St. Paul’s or No. 9 Spanish Fort. But after the season this squad has played, a ranked opponent is just another Tuesday at the office.
“This season has been a very strong one for our girl’s varsity team,” said Coach Jaclyn Button. “We were able to bounce back from having the season cut short last year. This we’ve competed against some tough 7A schools as well as private schools in the area and have learned a lot from the losses.”
Now don’t get it twisted and think this bunch is more bark than bite. Opelika soccer is ranked No. 15 in the final 6A AHSAA Soccer Coaches’ poll with a record of 9-4-2 and 6-0 in the area.
Button: “The varsity girls are seven-time area champions, which says a lot about the program and how strong we’ve competed these past years. I’ve been an assistant coach for the first three years and head coach for the last four. By winning the area this season, we’ve kept the streak alive, which is huge for our program. Because we have a first-round bye, winning the area will not play to our advantage this year because we will not get to play a first-round game at home, but will have to travel to Mobile for the second round next week.”
And – should they knock off that second-round opponent a showdown with No. 2 McGill-Toolen or No. 10 Baldwin County awaits.
Button: “Needless to say, we have a tough road ahead to make it to the Final 4. But we’re up for the challenge and I think we can compete with any ranked team in postseason play.”
That confidence can be attributed to the leadership shown by her three seniors. Abby Noon, Eleanor Wilson and Jackie Cruz have been key to the nine Opelika wins. They’ve outscored their opponents 91-10 with eight clean sheets in wins over the Valley, Central-Phenix City, Eufaula, Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore.
Button: “We have three seniors that have played a lot of crucial minutes in the midfield. Abby rehabbed back from an ACL tear in the offseason and just started competing halfway through the season. Having her back with us enabled us to stay competitive in the tough games.”
But it’s more than those three that bring the ferocity to the Bulldogs soccer program.
Button: “We have a lot of younger players that are starting and getting minutes this year. Morgan Watts is a sophomore who plays center defender for us and has kept us in multiple games along with our junior keeper Phoebe Darcey. Erica Matthews (freshman) and Amiya Brown (a sophomore) have finished the majority of the goals as forwards for our team.”
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