Lady Crusaders win titles through testing season
Grace Christian's girls soccer season has been full of new program records and obstacles.
Despite losing two starters to ACL tears and two other players to other injuries, the Lady Crusaders went a perfect 10-0 through the Carolina Christian Conference to win their first-ever CCC season championship and defend their CCC tournament championship.
Grace Christian's closest game was a 3-1 victory over defending conference champion Community Christian. The Lady Crusaders outscored their CCC opponents 42-9.
“We set some pretty lofty goals this season,” said head coach Chris Pratt. “Our first goal, was to win the conference. These girls really grabbed on to our goal and did not want to come up short.”
The Lady Crusaders were 4-0 in the conference when their senior captain, Elisa Carver, tore her ACL.
“When we lost Elisa, we had to go back to the drawing board,” said Pratt.
Freshman Kyndle Wallace filled in at Carver's position and eighth-grader Sarah Kelly moved to outside back. Those two have responded and helped the Crusaders capture their first championship.
In Grace Christian's last regular-season conference match against Trinity, sophomore goalkeeper Victoria Druther tore her ACL with 15 minutes remaining in the game. Once again, the Lady Crusaders regrouped. Pratt went with senior, first-time player, Karinda Farrant.
“Victoria was a first year keeper, who played like a veteran,” said Pratt. “When she went down, we had no back up. Karinda stepped up and has been huge for us.”
Farrant has played four games and allowed only two goals. She led her team to a 2-0 victory over Neuse Christian, ranked fourth in the state in NCISAA 1A, in the CCC tournament final.
The defense for the Crusaders has been the surprise of the season, Pratt said. Charity McVay, Wallace, Kelly, and newcomer Lexi Carver have been as consistent as a veteran bunch.
The Lady Crusaders knew scoring goals wouldn't be a surprise. Freshman Madison Bolen, a two-time all-state midfielder coming into the season, leads the Lady Crusaders in every offensive category and currently leads the state in total points. She has scored 31 goals and assisted on 24 more. She was voted all-conference, all-tournament, regular season MVP, and tournament MVP.
“Madison is a special player,” said Pratt. “I have seen many players, but none like her as a freshman. She has already broken every record at GCS, and before it is over, I believe she will break every county record as well. She has already had looks from major colleges and to get an opportunity to coach a player of her caliber is really special and fun.”
Sophomore Torie Boyte has also stepped up in a big way. Boyte is second on the team in goals (25) and assists (13). Boyte was also selected as a first-team all-conference player and to the all-tournament team.
“Torie is starting to understand the game more and more. She is making better runs, and her touch has improved tremendously. It’s nice because I always know that Torie will deliver in big moments," Pratt said.
The Lady Crusaders are 16-1-1. The 16 wins are the most in program history. The team includes only three seniors and two juniors. The group has worked hard all season, Pratt said, to buy into his style of play and coaching.
“The truth is, I have a full squad this year. We’ve had many players step up at key moments this year. We are tough to match up with because we have skilled players in every position," he said.
Freshmen Jazmine Urrutia and Bridgette Angeles and sophomore Hannah Scully were also recipients of awards. Urrutia was selected first-team all-conference and all-tournament in her first season with Grace. Angeles received second-team all-conference and Scully earned all-tournament team.