The North Wilkes girls soccer program has been on a steady course of improvement for many seasons, under the leadership of head coach Ed Martin.
In 2018, the Vikings set a new school record for wins in a season with eight, finishing just a few spots away from earning a wild card entry into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A playoffs. Coming into the 2019 season, the goal was clear — make the postseason.
The 2019 Vikings had to replace four seniors off the 2018 squad, including standout players Sydney Leapley and Candace Bell. Both Bell and Leapley were all-Mountain Valley Athletic Conference and North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association all-region selections in their time at North and left major shoes to fill.
“We had hoped to make the playoffs in 2019, somewhere the program has not been since 2016,” added Martin. “(Sydney and Candace) left gaps to be filled, but this year’s group really stepped up and performed.”
The 2019 squad did step up to the challenge, finishing 7-12 and 3-11 in the MVAC.
While North was still short of the playoffs, the Vikings found themselves closer, finishing one spot higher in the final rankings.
A trio of seniors, in addition to a talented junior class and impact freshmen who stepped onto the field and made an immediate impact, led this year’s Vikings.
“My seniors were leaders on and off the field,” remarked Martin on his 2019 seniors.
Leading the team were returning seniors Johanna Meyer and Megan Brown. Both players served as team captains and were able to add maturity and experience to the Viking defense. The Vikings’ third senior in 2019 was Alma Riva, an exchange student from Italy. Despite having never played before, Riva provided key minutes as a steady defender.
The Vikings success in 2019 was due in large part due to the ability of the team’s juniors to step into major roles on the field.
Junior captain Morgan Tribble led the Vikings in scoring with 18 goals and was once again named to the all-MVAC squad in 2019.
Taylor Harrold, who played on the wing for the Vikings, finished just behind Tribble in scoring. Harrold was an all conference honorable mention in 2019 and scored 17 points through six goals and five assists.
Juniors Brooke Bowlin and Edith Rosales also provided big minutes for the Vikings’ campaign in 2019.
Anchoring the defense for the Vikings were a couple of juniors: Kaitlyn Hayes and Leksa Billings. Hayes took most of the Vikings set pieces and was named an all-MVAC performer in 2019. Billings was the first choice goalkeeper for the Vikings, recording 130 saves on the season — good enough for all-conference honorable mention honors.
The Vikings were also beneficiaries of a collection of underclassmen that stepped into new roles and provided important minutes in the 2019 season.
Lucy Albanil-Rangel was an important winger, with strong one-on-one technical skills. Julisa Munoz-Maya and Cali Johnson were impact sophomores who contributed as rotational players on the backline.
Rylee Miller was a sophomore striker that was the Vikings’ most improved player over the course of the 2019 season. According to Martin, Miller greatly improved her first touch in trainings and will be counted on in the 2020 season.
The 2019 freshmen class for the Vikings stepped onto the pitch with a bang and began contributing immediately.
Leading this group was striker Allie Billings. Billings scored four goals in her rookie campaign, including a hat trick. Billings season was cut short by a mid-season injury, but the Vikings are looking forward to big things from her in the future.
The Vikings also saw immediate dividends from freshmen midfielders Reagan Jenkins and Pricilla Presley. According to Martin, both were hard working and intimidating, providing defensive pressure in the center of the field.