Terry Sanford’s girls’ soccer team made one of its deepest state playoff runs ever in 2015. So when the 2016 playoffs began and the Bulldogs were the top seed in the 3-A East, bigger and better things were expected.
It didn’t happen. They lost in a penalty kick shootout to Wilson Hunt in only the second round. But don’t expect coach Karl Molnar and this year’s team to dwell on that fact.
“Right now, I think we are looking at each other and saying this is a talented group,’’ Molnar said. “We better make something happen.’’
Numbers tell a lot of the story for this year’s Bulldog team, which opened the 2017 season with a 9-0 rout of Cape Fear that included three goals from senior captain Gracey Lewis.
Molnar has nine seniors and seven juniors on this year’s roster. “We’re pretty talented at every position,’’ he said. “I don’t know that I attack any better than I defend. We’re pretty solid across the board.’’
Among the most solid players on the team is Lewis. Athletics is very much in her blood, as she’s the daughter of two veteran coaches, Randy Lewis and Dotty Lewis. Although neither coached soccer, both have plenty of wisdom about preparation and gamesmanship to share with their daughter.
“She’s a very mature kid,’’ Molnar said. “She kind of looks and understands differently from most kids. And we’ve got a bunch of type A personalities around her that believe the same things she believes.’’
Like her coach, Lewis said the loss to Wilson Hunt last year is already forgotten. “You’ve got to move on or you’re never going to move forward,’’ she said.
The key to success for the Bulldogs this year, said Lewis, is staying healthy. “I think our starting lineup is going to be unreal,’’ she said. “We have a lot of speed and a lot of communication. We can possess the ball this year.’’
Lewis said she will be keeping the advice of her parents in her head as she tries to make the Bulldogs a winner again. “They like to see me work hard at everything I do,’’ she said. “If you mess up, don’t give up, get the ball back.
“They always told me for every shot you take you have to have amnesia and forget about it so you can make the next one.’’
As a senior and a captain, Lewis said she feels more comfortable in the role of team leader. “I have halftime speeches going through my head on how we can improve,’’ she said. “I think it runs in the genes.’’