Monday, February 26, 2024

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State champion Eagles see shifts in soccer program

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

It was clear that there would be changes for Eastern Alamance’s girls’ soccer team after winning the Class 3-A state championship in June.

Those have turned out to be extremely significant.

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Coach Bob Webber stepped down, and assistant coach Shawn Gibbs was promoted to replace him.

Former Eastern Alamance girls’ soccer coach Bob Webber, from last season when the team won the state championship.
The new Eastern Alamance girl’s soccer coach is last year’s assistant coach, Shawn Gibbs.

“I’m proud of what we were able to achieve,” Webber said. “It was a great three seasons that I was able to have at Eastern.”

Eastern reached the 2022 state final and took it another step by winning the school’s first state championship in soccer last year.

With a strong 2023 senior class departing and redrawn district lines with the opening of Southeast Alamance, it has altered the roster for the Eagles.

The new season is about six weeks away.

There were seven seniors, including the coach’s daughter Mackenzie Webber, on the title team. The Eagles were 20-0-1 last season after defeating South Point 4-0 for the championship.

“You lost a lot of senior talent and senior leadership,” Coach Webber said. “Typically, you don’t lose that big of a percentage to your senior class.”

Abby Stadnicar, a starting freshman defender on the team, along with Nadia Navarro and Carson Story, ended up at Southeast. Plus, defender Catherine Parker left to go to the North Carolina School of Science and Math.

The only senior returnees for the Eagles will be midfielder Ainsley Dial and defender Lucy Taylor.

“Luckily, we have Lucy and Ainsley,” Bob Webber said. “It’s a strong team. The program is in great shape. All these girls know Shawn.”

Joining Dial and Taylor as returning starters are Abby Brinker, Meredith Doi, Maci Link, and Ryen Gibbs – a midfielder and the new coach’s daughter. Brinker was last year’s second-leading scorer behind Molly Widderich, who went on to play collegiately at William & Mary.

Coach Webber said his decision to resign was rooted in providing care for his 90-year-old mother. He works full time at Labcorp.

“That was never the plan,” Webber said of leaving the soccer post after the 2023 season. “Really made the decision that I wasn’t going to make my mom a Tier 2 priority.”

For Coach Gibbs, it’s a continuation after two years on the coaching staff.

“It has been a fun ride,” he said. “Bob introduced a lot of things that really got us going in the right direction and we plan to continue the winning tradition. It’s something we’re looking forward to.”

Gibbs, who’s a manager for a printing company in Research Triangle Park, has been involved with the Mebane Youth Soccer Association since 2008. So that connection along with his daughter’s role as a player makes him familiar with the team’s personnel beyond what he experienced in two seasons on the high school coaching staff.

“Our roster is quite small, but our team is still very, very good. I fully expect to compete for the conference again,” Gibbs said. “It’s a good year to be a sophomore and freshman at Eastern. You’re going to get a lot of playing time.”

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