DR. PHILLIPS A hard-fought 3-2 home loss to West Orange High turned out to be Dr. Phillips girls soccer’s lone blemish in district play, just a goal shy of a regular-season district title.
But since that loss Nov. 10, the Panthers have won all nine of their games before winter break.
And they haven’t allowed a goal.
“I definitely think playing West Orange, which is our big rival, right off the bat makes something click with the girls,” first-year head coach Ashley Womack said. “They always have a mindset that West Orange is so much better than them … and then when they go out there and realize they’re just as good, they can go out and finish the season and give them some focus and mentality to go forward.”
The difference since that third loss in four games to start this season has been staying consistent from the opening kick to the final whistle, she said.
“In the Boone game and that West Orange game, we went up 2-0 and we allowed them to come back and win, and the Edgewater game was just something a little funky,” she said. “I think it was that the girls needed to learn how to finish out a game. It was getting them to believe in themselves, getting them to understand they need to play the whole game, and then once they've done that and … focused for 80 minutes, we haven’t been scored on.”
Womack said goalie Launa Foreman and an experienced defense have gelled fantastically to put up those nine shutouts.
“Launa's young — she's a sophomore — and this is her first year on varsity,” Womack said. “She’s come right out and commanded the field, and her and the defense just clicked right away. I have two seniors on defense, as well, and their seniority and experience in varsity has really been the groundwork.”
At the other end of the field, senior forward Shae Vevera has blasted shot after shot past all but one opponent during this streak, scoring 16 goals.
“Shae's one of those girls I say just has that natural ability, and she has that determination to score,” Womack said. “When she gets that fire in her eyes, no one can stop her, and she’s just gotten better every single year. Now as a senior, she's at her height and just blowing past defenses. I mean, she can turn around and nail that ball into the top of the net and make it look effortless.”
The varsity roster has reached a height with no ninth-graders this year, meaning additional experienced depth and familiarity.
“(Some) have played together now for four years,” Womack said. “They are confident on the ball; they know how to go out and play 80 minutes together, so I think that's huge. That experience is what's setting them apart this year.”
As the Panthers enter the winter break, their coach is stressing maintaining fitness and focus, given the sudden turn from five intense days a week to none.
“Getting them to remain fit and able to play the 80 minutes is going to be huge,” Womack said. “I also think with them it’s maintaining that focus and … how quickly they can come back and mesh again.”
Dr. Phillips will have three games within four days to do so, and Womack — a graduate of this program who played soccer all four years of high school — is thrilled to see this group have an opportunity to excel.
“Knowing what they can do with this team and how far they can go is exciting to watch,” she said.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].