By JD McCarthy
For the Opelika Observer
The Lee-Scott girls’ soccer team has been focused on the postseason all year, hoping to play its best soccer when the games mean the most.
“I’ve told them all season, the season doesn’t matter, we’re going to be in the playoffs. We want to be ready to play those last three games of the playoffs, those are the only games that matter, the season doesn’t matter,” said head coach Eric Faison.
The goals for the regular season for Faision were to figure out his teams’ chemistry and be physically strong for the postseason, something that has hurt his team before, and he wanted to prevent it by pacing his team during the season. While he planned to do this anyway, the Warriors have only been able to play five games because of poor weather and COVID-19 protocols.
“We don’t have a lot of depth, so it’s been good to just figure out the pieces,” he said. “The secret has been trying to figure out where everybody is going to play to make the team play the best, so I think I’ve just about figured that out.”
Part of the reason that is so important is that the Warriors have a young roster that does not have a ton of experience but is brimming with potential.
“We have potential to be as strong as we have been in the past but we’re so young I’m just not sure how it will play out,” he said.
While the Warriors have five seniors and four juniors on their roster, it is actually the younger players who have more experience, since they are the one who play soccer year-round.
“Our eighth and ninth graders are players that play year-round. So, they’re good but they’re young. Our upperclassmen are new to soccer and so they are ok,” Faison said.
Some of the young players that have stepped up are eighth graders Scarlett Wood and Sam Sharma, as well as freshman Colee Shepp.
“Our starting defense, our two center backs and the center-defensive mid are two eighth graders and a ninth grader but are pretty solid,” Faison said of his defense.
One of the veterans for the Warriors who has experience is senior Emily Heartstill. She leads the team with six goals and is one of the team’s “key pieces” according to Faison.
“[She’s been] critical, she’s a senior that’s played her whole life that’s really good,” he said. “She’s the oldest one with the most experience so naturally she’s going to perform.”
Another senior who has been critical is goalkeeper Abbie Starr, who started playing soccer just three years ago but has picked it up “really quickly” and is “really strong,” according to Faison.
“She doesn’t have the experience, but she picked it up really quick and she’s got the gifts to play goalkeeper. She’s just really quick and athletic,” he said.
Faison also picked Starr as one of the leaders of the team with another senior Mary Helen Miller.
“Mary Helen Miller and Abbie Starr are both seniors, they may not be the best players on the team, but they are leading the team vocally. Encouraging them, bringing the team together, unifying them, doing a really good job of that,” Faison said.
Despite having only played five games, the Warriors have a chance to clinch the one seed in the playoffs. All the Warriors need to do is beat Glenwood in their season finale on April 14 –
something Faison is “humbly confident” his girls are capable of doing and will help a potential playoff run. A run from the two seed will be “twice as difficult” to him.
This could be a deciding factor is just how far the Warriors go in the playoffs as their youth and lack of games has Faison unsure about their fate.
“We are really young and have a lot of potential, but we’ve played so few games it could go either way,” he said. “We could go all the way, or it could be a building year.”