In 70 minutes of sheer grit and determination, the Waynesville Middle School Lady Mountaineers soccer team defeated the Hendersonville Bearcats, 3-2, advancing to the Blue Ridge Athletic School (BRAC) Championship game to be held Tuesday, May 4, at Weatherby Stadium.

In the West Division of BRAC, the Mountaineers went undefeated, scoring 72 goals, recording seven shutouts and having five goals scored against them during the 2021 season.

“I am so immensely proud of how much grit and heart our girls showed in our semi-final game.,” said Amanda Wells, head coach for WMS.

The Mountaineers and Bearcats traded possession of the ball throughout the match and the score see-sawed between the teams. WMS Graisy Andrade scored the first goal, followed by Lindsey (Lily) Singleton to give the Mountaineers a 2-0 lead.

Hendersonville rallied, tying the match with less than a minute remaining in regulation play, sending the match into overtime.

“We had our top scorers double and triple marked by Hendersonville, which made our girls have to adapt and find new ways to score. Graisy Andrade, Lily Singleton and Hannah Downs were able to step up and finish,” Wells added.

In the first five-minute overtime period, Hannah Downs scored for the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers battled to keep the ball in Bearcats territory, while stepping up defensively to ensure that they held onto the lead. Their hard work and efforts paid off for when the final whistle blew, the Mountaineers edged the Bearcats to advance to the BRAC Championship round.

“I think we played well as a team. ... and didn’t let anything get in the way of getting to the next step to reach our goal. We faced some difficulties but persevered through them. I think today’s game showed that, as a team, we play hard till the final whistle is blown and we don’t give up,” said WMS’s Cecelia Morgan.

“We had lots of grit and battled through. We work super well together and have made huge improvements,” added goalkeeper Eireann Marcus.

Marcus was named Player of the Game by coach Wells for making some “clutch saves” at pivotal moments during the match and overtime periods.

“When the sweeper, Sophia Wijewickrama, got injured and had to come out of the game, Analyn Revelia stepped up and guided the defense for the remainder of the match. We had a lot of other players show determination, like Berenice Andrarde, Luci Snyder-Lowe, Julia Wells and Ennis Marcus to finish out the game for the win,” said Marcus.

The Championship Match: Waynesville vs. Rugby

Champions are not made by the number of trophies or titles that are won. Champions are made from qualities such as sportsmanship, having a strong work ethic, being a team player and caring for teammates on and off the field.

The WMS Lady Mountaineers battled, played hard and left everything on the field, however, in life, you do not always attain the outcome you desire.

This was the case on Thursday when the Mountaineers were defeated 2-0 by Rugby in the Blue Ridge Athletic Conference (BRAC) Championship game.

“I am beyond proud of our girls. They fought and did their best to the end. ... You keep your head held up high and you move forward,” said coach Wells.

Coach Wells had a lot to do with this group of amazing individuals being champions in life. Yes, she is the coach, but she was so much more — a mentor, a role model and a life coach to the girls, not only in words but in actions. Wells cares deeply for her players and instills values and life lessons through the sport that they are all passionate about.

“Our girls are amazing. Not just for the way they have handled this soccer season, but the way they have handled this year. Like all of the other teams last spring, their season got cancelled because of COVID. That did not stop our girls from working hard on their skills on their own. Most of our players did online camps and worked hard even when they were not on the field. We have really seen the benefits of their efforts on the pitch this year. Our girls know that we work hard on and off the field, goals are not wished for, you work for them. Our girls have set goals and we reached them game after game because of their positive attitudes, teamwork, and perseverance,” coach Wells said.

And work they did on and off the field on their own and during their free time.

“I was disappointed when our season got cancelled, but I was determined to keep getting better at my soccer skills. During my time in quarantine, I did an online program to keep my skills sharp. I wanted to make sure I did not fall behind and to be the best teammate for my teams. I did not want to let them down,” added Downs.

“We have a strong team culture that prides itself on hard work and grit not only during the season, but also in the off season. Championships are won in the off season. We will see positive results because of our hard work,” said Kate Clark. Teammate Luci Snyder-Lowe concurred: “We work really hard for each other and we are staying strong. I really like this team because we show a lot of teamwork in order to reach our goals.”

Teamwork, hard work, caring for others that is the stuff champions are made of and while the WMS Girls Soccer team did not win the title of BRAC Championship, they are Champions in life, and their parents and coaches think so, too.

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