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As reigning state champs, Eastern sets big goals amid new soccer challenges


By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Eastern Alamance won for the first time in 2024 in girls’ soccer by handling visiting Southeast Alamance on Friday night.

But the experiences leading to that game might have been just as important for the Eagles, who are in an unprecedented season. For the first time, they’re playing as reigning state champions.

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“We have a standard,” said junior Ryen Gibbs, the coach’s daughter.

While there will be adjustments along the way, there’s no suggestions from the Eagles that they want to be in a rebuilding phase.

“We don’t classify it as that,” junior Abby Brinker said. “We want to do that same thing (as last year).”

That’s when Eastern claimed the Class 3-A state title for the first time. Since then, Shawn Gibbs moved from assistant coach to head coach.

So early this season, there were certain challenges.

“The non-league games, it’s not about winning or losing,” Shawn Gibbs said. “It’s about fixing things. I like the idea of playing the 4-A schools early.”

Eastern lost to Class 4-A schools Northern Guilford, East Chapel Hill, and Chapel Hill across its first three games.

By defeating Southeast Alamance 8-0, there was a certain satisfaction.

“It was good to see everything come together,” senior Ainsley Dial said. “It’s good to see our work is getting us somewhere.”

The outcome to cap last week seemed more normal to the Eagles.

“Getting all the pieces of the puzzle coming together,” Brinker said. “We want to play up to those (standards).”

Against Southeast, the Eagles built a 7-0 halftime lead behind three goals from Brinker, two from Lilly Massey, and one apiece from Dial and Gibbs. Then goalkeeper Abby Darragh converted on a penalty kick with 16:08 remaining for the final tally.

“We got the result we needed,” Shawn Gibbs said. “I think our girls are starting to get in a groove and gain some confidence.”

The Eagles won’t begin Central 3-A Conference play until later this month, beginning with games against county rivals Williams (on the road March 26) and Western Alamance (March 27 at home).


Southeast gains first win

The night before playing at Eastern Alamance, Southeast picked up the first victory in program history. The first-year school accomplished that in the first Mid-Carolina Conference game, trouncing visiting Jordan-Matthews 7-1.

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