By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
As much as the Eastern Alamance girls’ soccer team wants to return to the state championship weekend, the Eagles can wait.
“We want to win the state championship, but it’s so far away,” senior captain Audrey Hupman said.
So the Eagles are definitely preaching patience and improvement in the weeks ahead.
“This is going to be a magical season if we can stay focused,” coach Bob Webber said. “We’re rich with talent. We’re blessed.”
For now, it’s about building throughout the season.
“The state championship is always the goal,” senior captain Mackenzie Webber said. “We try to work on smaller goals. You’ve got to take one step at a time.”
Eastern was the Class 3-A state runner-up last June, suffering a 2-0 loss to Lake Norman Charter in the title game.
Now the Eagles carry the label as a state contender.
“We’re a known team,” Mackenzie Webber said of heightened attention that could accompany the team’s quests this year. “Teams know about us. I think it will be worse come playoffs.”
Eastern Alamance is 6-0-1 overall and 4-0 in the Central 3-A Conference going into road games Monday night at Northwood and Wednesday night at Orange.
The Eagles have outscored their opponents by a combined 39-2 score this year.
While racking up an 18-4-1 record in 2022, there wasn’t that type of domination on a regular basis.
“Last year, I think it kind of came as a surprise,” Hupman said. “We got really hot in the playoffs.”
Coach Webber said there have been valuable developmental parts of the first month of this season. Players have been tested in new roles, giving the coaches a good barometer on how it might best all fit together.
“We need to know who we’ll be able to call upon if we need them and know that they know what to do,” he said.
Having numerous offensive sources should be a bonus for the Eagles. Molly Widderich and Abby Brinker appear to be the most proficient at the offensive end, but others are capable of converting with scoring chances as well.
Widderich and Brinker were among five Eastern players to miss last week’s 10-0 romp past visiting Roxboro Person as they were away at a club team tournament.
Hupman said the Eagles are trending toward becoming more versatile with a multi-faceted attacking style that could make them stronger overall.
Mackenzie Webber is the only returnee among the starting defenders from last season.
“We have a bunch of freshmen and others who’ve stepped in,” she said.
The Eagles get to work early, usually holding practices at 6:30 a.m.
Among Eastern’s goals is to sweep the Central 3-A Conference. The stiffest competition appears to be coming from Western Alamance and Williams, and rematches against those opponents will occur in back-to-back games April 19 and April 24, respectively.
Coach Webber said it’s difficult for the girls to wrap their heads around playing for a state championship last season and then starting anew, already facing a few teams they’ve overmatched this season.
So some of his messages tend to center on the need for regular progress.
“We have to get better with each game that we play,” Coach Webber said.
Then, perhaps, the time will come for the Eagles.