Opelika Girls Soccer Dives into 7A Action

2023-02-07 VG Opelika 8 Eufaula 0 - Soccer Team members of the Opelika varsity girls soccer team celebrate in their opening match against Eufaula Feb. 7. It was the first game and first win in Bulldog Stadium. PHOTO BY ROBERT NOLES / THE OBSERVER




The Opelika Bulldogs girls soccer team already has a few games under its belt in the 2023 campaign. The team is off to a solid start despite moving into a new classification, 7A, mainly due to depth and experience.

Being in a new classification makes for some schedule changes, including the addition of some tough opponents, but the Bulldogs are ready to embrace the challenge.

“In 7A we’ve got some bigger opponents,” said head coach Jaclyn Button. “Our area games are going to be big for us — Auburn, Central, Smiths Station. We’re also going to compete against Prattville; we’re looking to go down to Dothan and Enterprise, which will be some bigger schools for us; even an overnight trip to St. Paul’s and Alma Bryant as well, so we’re really trying to be competitive in those bigger school areas as well.”

The move to 7A will require the Bulldogs to face some reputable schools, but Opelika has been able to ease into the transition with its first games of the year coming against teams they are familiar with.

“So far, [the early schedule is] nothing too crazy,” Button said. “The first few games, we’ve seen opponents that we’ve played in years past so, nothing too challenging so far.”

Opelika has a roster that includes a good number of players from each class. This allows the team to have a solid combination of veteran leadership and young talent that will continue to strengthen the program for years to come. Striker Amiya Brown, midfielders Kaitlyn Spoon and Ashley Hilyer, and defender Morgan Watts are poised to play big roles in 2023, according to Button.

“We’ve got a young group, a good mix of everyone,” Button said. “I’ve got seven seniors that are returning. I’ve got great leadership out of a lot of those in that group. One of my center forwards, striker Amiya Brown, she’s always scoring goals and capitalizing for us. Kaitlyn Spoon and Ashley Hilyer kind of play throughout the midfield — just good playmakers for us. Morgan Watts was one of my center defenders who did tear her ACL, but she’ll come back by the end of March, so hopefully she can rehab and get back on the field with us. Some younger ones, definitely a couple new freshmen who are going to plug in for us — Bailey Ward and Kam McDaniel — are going to be great.”

The ability to adjust is crucial to the success of high school athletic teams. With injuries and new faces, the Bulldogs will have their fair share of adjustments to make this season.

“With new people and a couple of my starters who have been injured, we’re really trying to fill in some of these new positions and how we can work together,” Button said. “I think last year we had again some great leadership, a big junior class last year that are seniors now. I think it’s great on one hand to have those girls who have played for four or five years all the way up as seniors now, but this is definitely a younger, newer team with a lot of people in new positions. We’re just trying to figure out how we can capitalize on everybody’s strength and really grow.”

This season will be a pivotal one, not only for the Opelika girls soccer team, but for all spring sports as the Bulldogs get used to a new classification.

The Bulldogs face Central Phenix City in a road area matchup Thursday, Feb. 23, and then travel to face Prattville Monday, Feb. 27.


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