Teams know that Millbrook’s girls soccer team will turn to Lexie Strickland to put the ball in the back of the net. They just can’t figure out how to stop her.
Led by Strickland’s 20 goals in 20 games, the Wildcats (15-2-3) host North Raleigh rival Sanderson (11-10-1) in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs on Friday.
Part of what makes Strickland so hard to defend is the manner in which she plays.
“She’s fearless,” Millbrook coach Matt Edwards said. “She has bags of skill, she’s a natural finisher, but she’s fearless. The goals that she scores a lot of times is her being willing to stick her head in a crowd, to go in and tackle, being willing to go in and take a little bit of punishment to come out with the ball.”
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Edwards said Strickland is a more tactical player this year, and she wasn’t bad to start with. The North Carolina recruit, only a sophomore, has led the prestigious Cap-8 Conference in goals both seasons. Only one teammate – Makaya Parham – has more than 10 this season.
“I’ve definitely improved a lot since freshman year. Freshman year I wasn’t as eager to get as many goals,” Strickland said.
Strickland showed her determination in a March 20 win over Broughton. After falling behind 2-0, Millbrook roared back to win 3-2, with Strickland scoring all three.
“I wasn’t going to let them lose,” Strickland said. “I’m really competitive. Every goal they got, it made me want to get another one.”
Edwards noted that girls soccer has a lot of fear about concussions – some youth leagues have banned heading the ball – but Strickland plays with an enthusiasm that goes beyond it.
“She just plays with this little kid reckless abandon that takes her to another place,” Edwards said. “I’m thrilled, and I can’t take any credit for it, but I just let her do it.”