By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain’s women’s soccer team will take to the field for the first time this season today (Thursday) with a new coach at the helm.
Stephen Parsons has taken over as coach, and his first game will be at 6 p.m. at Enka. The home opener is set for 6 p.m. Friday against Highlands.
“Practices have been very productive,” Parsons said. “We got our full team last Wednesday after basketball ended.”
There are five seniors on the squad. Heading that group is forward Anna Morgan, a three time all-conference selection. She already holds school career and season records for goals.
Other seniors back from a 6-11 team are midfielder Lindsey Stack and defenders Lucy McRae and Erin Moore.
They are joined by senior defender Autumn Cunningham, a newcomer.
“There is a lot of senior leadership,” Parsons said. “We don’t have many seniors, but the ones we do have have been great leaders.”
Returning juniors include goalkeeper Willow Messer, defender Holley Smith, midfielders Natalie Parris and Melanie Hoyle, and forward Ella Harris.
Sophomores back include midfielders Maia Wilde, Hadley Huffman and Emma Jutte, and defender Abigail Stanberry.
Joining the team this year are junior defender Kenya Wright, sophomore defender Jessica Sellers, freshmen midfielders Lilli Rhoads, Lily Buenting, Asia Godinez and Jada Cortes, freshmen defenders Addison Cowan and Aiden Nicholson, and freshman goalkeeper/forward Macy Wike.
“I feel very confident about the season,” Parsons said. “We have 13 returning players, and the new players we have added have jumped right in. They may not have a lot of high school soccer experience, but they have soccer experience with club and middle school. We’re expecting a much better season this year.”
Parsons said he has faced some adjustments as a head coach.
“It’s been a lot busier for me just doing the ins and outs of a lot of the roles a head coach is in charge of,” he said. “The off the field stuff has been the most challenging for me.”
Jonathan Parsons and Corina Gribble are assistant coaches.
The schedule is as follows:
March 5 – at Enka; 6 – Highlands; 16 – Swain; 17 – at Murphy; 19 – at Tallulah Falls, Georgia; 24 – at Highlands; 26 – Enka; 27 – R-S Central; 30 – at Pisgah.
April 6 – at Brevard; 8 – Hendersonville; 9 – Madison; 14 – at Tuscola; 16 – Tallulah Falls; 20 – Franklin; 22 – Pisgah; 24 – Polk; 27 – at Hendersonville; 29 – Brevard.
May 1 – at East Henderson; 4 – East Henderson; 6 – at Franklin.