Girls soccer team builds on past success


Emilia Weinrobe

Junior Hayley Chamberlain dribbles by a defender in the Knights’ scrimmage against Heritage on Friday, Jan. 21. Chamberlain scored two goals in the Knights’ victory.

Cole Parker

After finishing last season No. 1 in Region 6-AAAAA and falling 4-0 to Blessed Trinity in the state semifinals, the girls soccer team is aiming for the state finals.

“I think [the season] is going to go really well,” senior co-captain and defender Callan Cucchi said. “We have a lot more talent and depth from the bench than we did last year. We also won’t play [Blessed Trinity] until the finals if we go all the way; so, we’ll probably make it to the finals this year.”

The Knights defeated Heritage 2-1 in a Jan. 21 scrimmage, and lost 3-0 to Lovett in their second scrimmage on Jan. 25 The girls will play their first non-region game of the season against Decatur on Friday, Feb. 4. 

“I was very impressed with how [the team] worked together [in those scrimmages],” second-year head coach Blair Barksdale said. “They’re cohesive, and they’ve all now played a season together. Their communication was also really good.”

Part of the reason why the Knights expect to do better than last season is because the team has matured.

“I think that girls getting older and becoming more confident in themselves in the way they play is really special about this year,” said Grace Porges, senior co-captain and forward/midfielder. “A lot of our players aren’t freshmen anymore, which helps a lot.”

Junior forward Shay Bowman is a key player. Last season, she was Region 6A Player of the Year.

“I definitely want to be a leader this year,” Bowman said. “I want to score a lot of goals, win games in tough moments and make sure everyone’s prepared for the season.”

Barksdale spoke highly of Bowman.

“[Bowman] is that silent leader; she leads very much by example,” Barksdale said. “I’m counting on her to be a huge scorer again. When there’s adversity, she knows how to get through.”

Players from last season lost to graduation include midfielder/defender AG Church, forward Kamryn Harty, midfielder Sam Huray and midfielder/forward Elise Isakov. According to Cucchi, the team is working to “fill those gaps” with new talent, although the roster is still similar to last season. 

“I would say [our team chemistry] is really good because we’ve only lost two starters from last year;so, it’s kind of the same lineup,” Cucchi said. “We’re not really stressed about getting used to how we play together because we kind of already know how to do that.”

The Knights look forward to resuming pre-pandemic activities.

“I just want to have a more tight-knit team atmosphere and do more things off the field because, last year, we didn’t really get a chance,” Cucchi said. “Because of Covid, we didn’t really have a chance to go out to dinner or have a team sleepover and get to know each other off the field and build that community. This year, we’re really trying to kind of build a sense of family and show we’re in this together and proud of being on the same team.”

Immersing the underclassmen in the team culture is a major goal.

“I think last year one of our weaknesses was communication,” Cucchi said. “This year, we’re kind of focusing on making sure the underclassmen feel welcomed and comfortable talking to the team. Last year, the underclassmen might have been a little scared.”

Barksdale relies on input from her players to coach effectively. The team has had three different coaches within the span of three years, and this is the first time the team has had the same head coach for two consecutive seasons.

“[Barksdale] is really supportive of everyone, and she’s always there to listen and take constructive criticism,” Cucchi said. “Also, just having a coach for two years is so nice because you know them; you know their style of play; you know what they’re going to do at practice, and they kind of know what the team needs.”

Porges is also grateful to have a coach she has already formed a relationship with.

“I think she knows all the players, and she knows our individual strengths,” Porges said. “It’s just nice she knows all of us, and we’re all close now, so it makes it easier for her to sub in players and decide how to change the formation.”

The Knights’ more challenging games will come from outside of the region.

“Our region is not really competitive,” Cucchi said. “[Coach] Barksdale has scheduled some really difficult games to get us ready for the playoffs.”