The two backup players from last year, Mary Kate Bowers and Sydney Wooten, were a good indicator Wednesday night on how Leesville Road’s girls soccer program continues to stay strong.
Bowers and Wooten didn’t do anything spectacular in Leesville Road’s 3-0 win over Broughton.
What the two sophomores did do was lead the Pride to victory, something Bowers and Wooten didn’t get many chance to do during Leesville Road’s run to the 4A state title last season. Bowers, a midfield, scored the Pride’s first goal in the 13th minute.
“Mary Kate has gotten so much confidence with her ball-handling abilities,” Wooten said. “She’s really excelled from a year ago.” Bowers demonstrated her growth in how she scored.
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On Broughton’s side of the field, Bowers accepted the ball on a pass before taking a few dribbles. Broughton forced Bowers to shoot with her left foot, her weaker of the two. At first, she didn’t think she would score. The end result was the ball slipping past Broughton goalkeeper Caroline Duncan.
“I thought that goal set the precedent for how the rest of the match was going to go,” Bowers said. “This kind of win means we’re are getting confident, but not cocky.” Once Leesville Road (7-0-1, 4-0 Cap Eight 4A) had the lead, Wooten, the Pride’s goalkeeper, made sure to keep Broughton (3-3, 2-2) off the scoreboard.
Coach Paul Dinkenor has played two keepers this season. Wooten watched her teammate and goalkeeper Zaria Maynard help the Pride win the state championship last season. With three matches this week, Dinkenor let Wooten play the entire match Wednesday while Maynard was the only player who didn’t leave the bench.
“I feel like I’ve worked hard enough to where everyone trusts me,” Wooten said. “It’s a really great feeling.”
Leesville Road, a powerhouse in girls soccer for years, has just two seniors who start this year.
“I thought we played well for a half,” Dinkenor said. “When we kept the ball on the ground, we looked really good. I have to tell myself we are inexperience.”
Forward Caroline Gentry gave the Pride their large lead with two goals of her own in the first half. Gentry scored her second goal on a shot from 30 yards away that found the top of the net. Gentry, an N.C. State recruit, now leads the Pride with eight goals this season.
“She’s helped me improved, and I’ve helped her,” Bowers said of Gentry. “It’s pretty cool to see how we’ve grown in that way.”
Broughton did play better in the second half. Duncan not only didn’t allowing a second-half goal, she also made three saves when Leesville Road moved the ball deep into Broughton’s territory.
The Pride knew they couldn’t celebrate too much after the match. Leesville Road faced another quality opponent in Apex (3-3) the next night.
“This win sets up everything going into tomorrow,” Bowers said after the match. “We’re ready to go.”