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Gray’s Creek prepares for run at season title in girls soccer


After a second-place finish to Cape Fear in the United Eight Conference last season, Gray’s Creek girls soccer coach Jordan Musselwhite thought the pieces could be in place for a solid season this year.

But if you had told him the Bears would be unbeaten when spring break arrived, he’s not sure he would have had expectations that high.

“We’ve got some tough teams in our conference, and we play Terry Sanford nonconference,’’ Musselwhite said.

The Bears are 10-0-1 as they take this week off, preparing for a final run at the regular-season title with key games looming the first week of May against Cumberland County rivals Jack Britt and Cape Fear.

Britt put the lone blemish on the Bears’ record, a 1-1 tie.

Musselwhite felt the Bears dominated possession against the Buccaneers but were unable to score as frequently as usual.

“We gave up a penalty kick on a handball late in the game,’’ Musselwhite said. “Britt scored on that and that allowed them to tie.’’

Four seniors and a junior form the core of Musselwhite’s unbeaten Bears. Leading the way is senior midfielder Haylee Vue with 18 goals and 17 assists. Another key performer who plays all over the field is left-footed Emma Hill.

Madison Ludlum anchors the middle of the field for the Bears and is strong defensively, as well as a threat to score on corner kicks and set pieces.

Striker Amira Gunther is a talented runner at the top of the Bear attack. Junior JoJo Plaza is a returning starter at defender and is one of the hardest workers on the team.

Vue has been playing soccer since before the age of 5. Her dad introduced her to it, and the competitive environment of the sport kept her interested.

“I can go from individual play into full group play,’’ she said. “I think I’m good offensively and defensively.’’

She also thinks she’s got a high soccer IQ.

She agreed with Musselwhite that the unbeaten season to date has exceeded the team’s expectations. She hopes the Bears can continue doing as well as they’ve done so far.

The team’s commitment to excellence is showing during spring break. While they have no official practices scheduled in the holiday week, Vue said the players have decided to organize informal off-campus practices.

She said they’re focused on getting in some good touches on the ball and maintaining the athletic skills they’ve developed this season.

“We’re able to have fun and be able to learn, ask and receive advice from other teammates,’’ Vue said. “It gives the players time to have rest and focus on themselves and family and have their own fun outside the soccer team.’’

While it’s not ideal for a week’s break to fall during the playing season, Musselwhite thinks the Bears will benefit from it.

“A lot of the girls play the entire game, every game,’’ he said. “I really think it will be a time for us to get some rest and heal up a bit.’’

He’s also concerned about the pending matches with two of their biggest threats, Cape Fear and Jack Britt.

“Playing a second time, they’ll have a better handle on what we do,’’ he said. “We’ve got to just stay the course and make sure we are working hard every day. We’re not taking anything for granted; no slipups in the conference the second time through.’’

Earl’s Pearls

  • Seventy-First High School soccer standout A’jaylah Yates has been named a National Player of the Week from North Carolina by the United Soccer Coaches and MaxPreps.

Yates was previously recognized as a CityView Athlete of the Week.

Yates currently leads the United Eight Conference in scoring with 35 goals and 11 assists.

* Terry Sanford won its Easter baseball tournament, defeating East Bladen 12-9 in the championship game. 

Ethan Nobles was named tournament MVP. He was 4-for-7 with a pair of doubles. 

The Bulldogs earlier beat Midway 4-0 and Pinecrest 6-5.

They are 17-2 overall and 10-0 in the All American Conference.

They have a nonconference game at home with Lee County on Saturday, then wrap up the conference regular season with four games, home and away meetings with both Pine Forest and Westover.• Douglas Byrd High School is hosting a wrestling tournament for boys and girls of all ages on April 22. 

Two-time NCAA champion Austin O’Connor of the University of North Carolina will be at the tournament. There will be Greco, freestyle and folkstyle competition. One style is $25, two is $30 and three is $35.

To register, visit the Douglas Byrd wrestling page on Facebook and scan the QR code displayed on the page.

  • The deadline is 4 p.m. today, April 14, for member schools in the N.C. High School Athletic Association to vote on a proposed amendment that would allow the association to change the number of school classifications from the traditional four to as many as seven.

At least 75% of the more than 400 member schools in the association must cast a ballot for the vote to be valid.

  • If you have concerns about the pending bill in the North Carolina legislature that would basically strip the N.C. High School Athletic Association of its power to oversee high school sports in the state and leave it in the hands of elected officials, here are the email addresses of members of the Cumberland County legislative delegation.

One of them, Sen. Tom McInnis, is a primary sponsor of the bill.

The addresses are as follows: Charles.Smith@ncleg.gov, Diane.Wheatley@ncleg.gov, Val.Applewhite@ncleg.gov, Marvin.Lucas@ncleg.gov and Tom.McInnis@ncleg.gov.

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on Twitter @EarlVaughanJr

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Fayetteville, sports, high school, girls soccer