by Andrew Stark
The Covenant Day girls soccer team has a long-standing tradition of success, having enjoyed numerous dominant seasons and produced many players who went on to compete in college. The Lions have won conference championships each year since 2005, and they took home three consecutive state championships from 2005 to 2007.
The 2007 team was ranked in Adidas’ national poll and had two players score more goals than any Lion had previously tallied in a season: Jessica Schwerter, who had 39 goals, and Sara Stiles had 32 that year.
Despite the 2007 team’s success, coach Jeff Foltz said this year’s team, which has a 15-4-2 record, is the best group he’s ever coached. It seems the team scoring record is about to be surpassed, too.
Anna Melton, the Lions’ leading goal scorer and one of the senior captains, is closing in on the single-season scoring record and already has 37 goals and 16 assists on the season. She’s tallied 81 goals for her career.
“When Anna scores, sometimes she’s able to score three at a time,” Foltz said. “When she’s on, she can score in bunches and will create opportunities for the other girls. When she’s really on, she can score highlight-reel goals, and she can bury a team by herself.”
The good thing for the Lions is that Melton hasn’t had to do it by herself.
The Lions have a three-headed attack on offense, led by Melton, Sarah Brace and Rachel Blong. Midfielder Emily Hicks has helped solidify the Lions’ backfield. And the versatility of Nancy Pendleton, coupled with the return to soccer of goalkeeper Laura Beth Hite, who hadn’t played in high school until this season, has strengthened this Lions team.
“This team is better than that (2007) team,” Foltz said. “If you take it player-by-player, we have the total collection this year that makes this team the better of the two. Now that (2007) team was ruthless, and we are young (this year) and still learning how to be ruthless ourselves. But overall, this team is better.”
Melton has seven hat tricks on the year – most recently against High Point Christian on April 20 in the Lions’ 7-0 win – and has scored multiple goals in 11 games. Melton said setting the single-season scoring record would be an achievement that would make her proud.
“It would be very special because I have always put the (Covenant Day) players that came before me on a pedestal,” Melton said. “Especially when my sister (Mary Melton, Class of 2010) played I always admired the players before me and their skills, and it would be awesome to (break the record).”
Melton and the Lions feel that they have a chance to compete for a state title, despite having just 14 players and a back line made up of freshmen and sophomores.
While the defense is young, the offense, led by Melton, is explosive. Melton, Blong and Brace have combined for 59 goals on the year and averaged around five goals per game over the last several contests.
“This is one of the best and (most) fun teams I have ever been on,” Melton said. “We started off with a really small team and didn’t even know if we would have subs at all. But everyone has contributed.
“And since the seniors have played together, we know each other well. I can make a run, and someone will put the ball right where it needs to be every time. We just sort of know how to play together and understand each other so well.”
Foltz said while Melton is closing in on the scoring record, she’s not concerned about her individual accomplishments, which helps set the team dynamic.
“Soccer is all about matchups, and we have the three forwards who present constant problems,” Foltz said. “You can’t just sag back off Anna because if it isn’t her, Sarah, Rachel or somebody else will step up and score for us.”
While Melton is nearly a lock to break the school scoring record, she said it would only be topped by a state championship.
“Besides my teammates getting me the ball at the perfect time, one thing that helps me is not focusing on scoring or the record,” Melton said. “I don’t want to have that in the back of my mind. More than anything, I want to win as a team. Breaking the record would be special, but it is not my focus. I would rather not score any goals if that would help us win a state championship.”
The Lions play Greensboro Day on Saturday, May 5, before the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A tournament begins on Saturday, May 12.