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TWO SEASONS, TWO CONFERENCE TITLES

Charlotte Eagle's Roster Depth and a Focus on Excellence Lead Them to Their Second Conference Title
Published Aug 2, 2021
Photo Credits:  Charlotte Eagles Media

 

The Charlotte Eagles wrapped up the 2021 WPSL season with a 9-1-0 record, seven clean sheets and a second consecutive Carolinas Conference title.


Their one and only loss came on the road during the regular-season to their eventual semifinal opponent, Asheville City SC. The Eagles outscored Asheville in three meetings 5-1, but Asheville held them at bay on June 19 for a 1-0 victory.
 

Their goalkeeper [University of Virginia senior Michaela Moran] was lights out,” Sam Hope Charlotte’s head coach said. “Their counter attacking strategy proved successful and they got a late penalty that put us on our heels. We learned a lot from that game.”

 

Despite one match shy of a complete perfect showing, Charlotte had an incredible season that seems even more impressive when you realize the talent and depth of their roster. Fourteen different players scored, and more than half of the team recorded at least one assist resulting in 30 goals through the regular-season and postseason conference tournament – among the top teams in the leagues for goals scored this season.

 

The Eagles presented a well-balanced attack all season long, no matter the rotation, forcing opponents to divide their attention instead of focusing on one or two powerhouse players. Even so, one player managed to be at the center of goal-scoring opportunities more often than others. University of Florida freshman Madeline Rhodes contributed to nearly half of Charlotte’s 30 goals, not only leading the team in scoring (5) and assists (9), but also leading the entire WPSL in assists - tied with Dakota Chan of the Washington Dutch Lions FC.    
 

Maddy [Rhodes] has a tremendous work ethic, good speed and great vision,” Mark Steffens Charlotte’s assistant coach said. “She could have scored more goals, but she is an unselfish player who makes everyone around her better. She plays entry passes that many other players don’t even see.”       

 

High Point University junior Skyler Prillaman had her most productive performances at exactly the right time. Prillaman scored three of four goals in the final three matches including in the Eagle’s 4-0 win over Women’s Football Club of Charlotte in their final regular-season match. She also found the back of the net twice in the Carolinas Conference postseason tournament. Prillaman finished the season as the Eagles second leading scorer with four goals and five assists while earning a spot in the Top 10 in the league for assists.


With University of Louisville alumna Gabby Kouzelos and University of North Carolina Charlotte sophomore Emma Wakeman rotating in goal and the impenetrable duo of University of Tennessee Chattanooga junior Mackenzie Smith and UNC Charlotte junior Kristy Campbell at center back, the Eagle’s backline conceded just four goals in regular-season plays - only three teams in the entire league allowed fewer.

 

They were an incredible pair that complimented one another well,” Hope said of Smith and Campbell. “Mac won a lot of balls in the air and dictated much of the play with the ball at her feet. Kristy cleaned up everything defensively with her pace and composure. She played simple and rarely gave the ball away.”

 

The Eagles are a possession-oriented team that high presses opponents and with their depth and talent, it’s clear to see how they have the stamina and ability to keep that level of pressure for a full 90+ minutes through each match.


A winning season and conference title are obviously huge accomplishments, but as a soccer team that’s also a Christian ministry, Hope said it’s never their main focus. 

 

Our goal is to create an environment where the Lord can work in our players' lives both on and off the field. God transforms these ladies into sisters and this often times results in winning games,” Hope said.

 

From pregame chapel to writing notes of encouragement to their opponents, the intersection of faith and soccer is a huge part of being a Lady Eagle. Players are encouraged to approach every opportunity in soccer and in life with excellence in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

 

Charlotte won the Carolinas Conference championship match against North Carolina Fusion U-23 4-0 on July 17.  Although the Eagles organization has been around since 2000, this was just their second season in the WPSL.  Charlotte also won their conference title in the inaugural season in 2019 before falling in the regional-semifinals.

 


 

   Author:  Katie Parker, @KatieParkerTV (Twitter)
   WPSL Contributor - South Region