Better times ahead for girls soccer

Published 10:15 am Thursday, March 2, 2017

Davie varsity girls soccer has always been one of the Central Piedmont Conference’s afterthoughts. It has languished in mediocrity so long that last year’s 8-11 overall record marked the most wins in seven years. Davie went 4-8 in the CPC, tying for fifth in the seven-team league.

New coach Jim Beck believes better times are ahead. He thinks Davie could even make a little noise in year one of his tenure.

“I saw some stuff (in a 3-1 scrimmage win at Alexander Central on Feb. 21) that I really liked,” Beck said. “If we play up to our ability, we’re going to be dangerous. Teams last year that beat us by a goal or two are going to have to work hard to beat us.”

In the scrimmage at Central, Davie rallied after facing a 1-0 deficit at the half. The goals came from Faith Bokeno, Annie Kinder and Jessica Navarro, who also assisted a goal. Alexis Riddle had an assist.

“I can put 15 players out there that can be competitive with anybody on our schedule,” Beck said. “If we can control the defensive back – and hold teams to two goals at the most – we’re fast up front and we’re going to score a lot of goals. We had 19 shots (in the scrimmage). We were inches away from putting a bunch of those shots in.”

Senior Madison Riddle is a bona fide goalie who has signed with Division-II Pfeiffer.

Sophomore Jaci Grachen is a center midfielder who scored five goals last year. “She will probably not come off the field,” Beck said. “She is an unbelievable player.”

Navarro, a junior forward, scored eight team-high goals last year. “I really like her,” he said. “She is really quick. I look for her to score a lot of goals.”

The attack with senior Ali Guttenberg on the left wing, Bokeno up top, Navarro on the right wing and Grachen in the middle is a combination that Beck calls “lethal.” Bokeno scored five goals in 2016.

“Bokeno got a ball 10-15 yards in front of the defenders (against Central),” Beck said. “She broke through, outran them and had a one-on-one with the goal keeper. She tried to push it by to the right and barely missed the goal. I’m going: ‘Where did that come from?’ I mean that just blew me away. She has some wheels.”

Senior Annie Kinder, a defensive midfielder, junior Katherine Watts, a left-footed center back,  and junior defender Kam Parks give the War Eagles a lot of hope.

“Kinder is a little scrapper,” he said. “She’s like a bulldog. She took a shot at the top of the 18 and just buried it in the top of the net. I’m really surprised with her.

“Watts is a game player. I hadn’t seen a lot out of her until we got in that game, and it was like the light came on for her and she was everywhere. She was getting back and recovering. I was really, really pleased with her.

“I gave Parks player of the match. She fought back there and won some balls that a lot of girls would have given up on. She sparked us. She took a ball out of the back and made a pass to the outside (that led to the first goal at Central).”

The two freshmen – Alexis Riddle and Haley Campbell – have proved they belong on the varsity level.

“I put Haley in as one of our center midfielders,” he said. “She was a little nervous at first, but all of a sudden she started playing with confidence, winning balls and making good passes. She’s going to get some playing time.

“Alexis is a smart player. I’m excited I’ve got her for another three years.”

Beck has question marks on defense. If that unit gels and the War Eagles are able to weather a rugged early schedule,  Beck can envision an enjoyable first year as coach.

“My biggest concern has been the defensive back line,” he said. “I toyed with stuff in the first half (at Central).

“If we can come away with a couple wins (early), we’re going to be looking good. But we’ve got to play good. Against West Forsyth, Forbush, Reagan or somebody like that, we can’t make errors. We’ve got to have players step in and help out.

“We’ll be fun to watch this year. If we don’t put the ball in the goal, we’re going to be pounding away at it. We’ve got to work on finishing, fine-tune a few little things and shore up our defense.”

The roster includes seniors Carolin Freye, Jennifer Ngo, Erin Gniewek, Riley Ball and Zemora Cockerham; juniors Kassidie McDaniel and Brianna McGowan; and sophomores Amanda Ngo and Reece Vizcaino. Beck’s assistant coaches are Martin Gant and Andrew Davis.