Lady Devils soccer has unprecedented season
At the very beginning of the season, when the weather was still cold and many of their classmates were still competing in indoor sports, the Swain County girls’ soccer team set two goals for the 2019 season: win a Smoky Mountain Conference championship and to win a playoff game.
Head Coach Scott Cline and his team made it look easy as they achieved both goals and saw their football-mad community rally around them in the process as the Lady Devils finished 17-4 (winning the conference with a 11-1 record against SMC foes) and marched all the way to the third round of the playoffs, eventually falling 2-1 in overtime to Mountain Island Charter School.
“It was the first time we had ever made it that far in the playoffs,” said Cline. “The support along the way was tremendous. Those were the biggest crowds we have ever had. It’s just been amazing watching the community get behind the team. We had people who had never even been to soccer games until the end of this season, and then they started coming out.”
The Lady Devils were led by their three All-Region players in senior Kyndall Cochran and sophomores Isabelle Green and Kate Poss. All three were also All-Conference selections, and Cochran was named the SMC Player of the Year after scoring 49 goals and dishing out 12 assists.
“She has meant so much to the program not just on the field, but off it, too,” Cline said of the graduating Cochran. “Her leadership, her support of her teammates, she has really brought the team together really well. She is a four-year senior who started all four years. It is going to be hard to replace her. It really is.”
After dropping two of its first five games, Swain County bounced back to go 14-1 over its next 15 games before the season-ending loss at Mountain Island Charter.
“The girls really came together,” explained Cline of the run. “They came together and made it a totally different atmosphere to where the girls were just excited to be there. They were excited to play and games and excited to just hand out with each other.”
Cline says the rising popularity of the sport in the area should continue to strengthen the Swain County varsity program.
“More and more girls have started playing with club teams and travel teams and we’ve also started the middle school teams,” he said. “So, we’ve had several players from those types of teams who have just moved up into the high school now.”
Swain County only graduates two seniors from this season’s starting lineup in Cochran and Jessie Richards. Cline is hopeful the success enjoyed in 2019 will become the standard moving forward.
“Next year, we want to just pick up where we left off,” said Cline. “We will start off playing big schools in the beginning and move on to conference play after that. We continue to have good players coming up through the pipeline from our middle school teams, and then we have some very talented players that might not have been starters this year but are going to be impact players in the future.”