Girls soccer teams in Lexington County looking to exceed expectations in 2024

Posted 2/15/24

Many girls teams around the county are entering the season looking to build off of what went right last year.

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Girls soccer teams in Lexington County looking to exceed expectations in 2024


Opening kickoff is quickly approaching, and soccer teams around Lexington County have made their final roster cuts and begun practices ahead of the 2024 campaign. 

Many girls teams around the county are entering the season with sights set on playoffs. Some groups feel they can make a run at their region championship, while a few think the state championship is within reach too.

The South Carolina Soccer Coaches Association released their preseason rankings, and four girls teams are ranked in their classification’s top 10. Dutch Fork, Lexington and River Bluff come in seventh through ninth in the 5A poll, and Gilbert sits in seventh in the 3A girls poll.

The fight for the 5A Region 4 championship was very close last season, with just a two-game gap between first and third place. Last year Chapin won the conference with a 7-2 record, followed by River Bluff and Lexington. 

The conference is expected to be highly, if not more, competitive this season. Dutch Fork, which finished 1-7 and tied for last place last year, is expected to make a big jump, entering the season as the highest-ranked group in the region. 

River Bluff was the furthest-advancing team in the conference last season, making it to the third round before losing to St. James 3-2. The roster saw a lot of turnover between then and now, losing six senior players, including top goal scorer Alanna Colbert. 

This season’s Gator group is young and inexperienced. The team is looking to quickly adapt and be prepared for one of the toughest regions in the state. Head coach K.C. Dunbaker said the leadership of the team’s three seniors, Ella Yarborough, Emerson Marshall, and Anna Kirstein, will be important in helping bring everyone up to speed. 

“We are definitely fielding a young team,” Dunbaker said. “Although the group lacks experience, they bring a mindset of wanting to learn and apply information every day to training. With the loss of a strong class last year, we anticipate and expect our younger players to step up and contribute, following the example set by our three seniors.”

Dunbaker knows with younger players it may take them some time to catch on, but expects the players to work through those problems throughout the season. 

“It will be a trial-by-fire introduction for the entire team,” Dunbaker said. “A task I fully expect them to meet with a level of determination, grit, and above all, teamwork.”

Dutch Fork, which was a relatively young team last season, enters the 2024 campaign more experienced and returning most of their offensive production, including top goal scorer Shannon Wright. 

There were no teams ranked in the 4A coaches poll, but both Airport and Irmo will field talented rosters in 2024 and have the potential to climb the ladder as the season goes on. 

Airport finished second place in its region last season and brought back much of its production. The team had two players who averaged over a goal per game last year. 

Victoria Coleman led the group in her freshman season with 1.5 goals per game, and Ella Harman averaged 1.3 during her junior year. Both will suit up for the Eagles this season. 

Irmo lost five seniors from last season’s squad that finished fourth in the region and qualified for the state playoffs. That does not change their outlook for this season, as the team wants to continue moving in an upward trajectory. 

“One of them was the team MVP for the last 3 years, so we’ll surely miss them,” head coach Christian Villi said. “Nevertheless we do have a very talented group of young players coming up. A lot of our starters will be freshmen and juniors this season. Our objective this season is to equal or exceed last year’s results.”

Gilbert is the only 3A team that was ranked in the coaches poll, but all three area teams in the classification have potential after they all qualified for the playoffs a year ago.

The Indians finished second in their region last season behind undefeated Dreher. The team advanced to the second round of the playoffs before running into eventual champions and current preseason No. 1 Waccamaw.

The team will have its leading offensive player back. Bevard commit Kinlee Mozley led Gilbert in goals and assists last year. 

Swansea and Brookland-Cayce both begin the season with a mix of new and experienced players. The Bearcats will be looking to fill the void that was created after graduating Kimberly Neely, who averaged over two goals a game for the team. 

Like 4A, no 2A teams enter the season ranked in the top 10. However, the 2A girl rankings are combined with the 1A rankings, making it harder to earn a spot. 

Batesburg-Leesville and Pelion will be looking to improve upon disappointing seasons last year. Pelion went 1-16 last year and finished last in 3A Region 3. Batesburg-Leesville finished 5-14 overall and one game above Pelion in the region standings. 

Batesburg-Leesville’s fourth-place finish earned them a spot in the playoffs, where the Panthers lost in the opening round to Brashier Middle College.

Gray Collegiate’s girls team has already claimed their sixth consecutive region championship after their opponents informed the school they would forfeit their games. The team is looking to build on its .500 record from last season and make a deeper run in the state tournament. 

The team returned two four-year starters who have made plays for the team before. Midfielder Charlotte Stone is back after recording 14 points for the team last year. Defender Kaitlin Robinson can protect the home net and help facilitate on the other end, recording seven points in 2023.

Gray also returned its three-year goalie starter, Sophie Hoffman. Consistency in the net will greatly help the team’s ability to win games. 

Hoffman had a 1.86 goals against average and 95 saves in 1375 minutes. Her career totals sit at 1.21 goals against per game, 49 total goals against, in 3215 minutes, with 140 saves and 17 shutouts. 

Each day the season gets closer. Even with early indications, there is no telling how things will turn out by the end of the year for girls soccer teams in the county. 

Most programs are scheduled to begin competition at the end of this month. But all around the county, different teams will be participating in preseason and friendly matches prior to the official start. 

River Bluff soccer, Lexington soccer, Dutch Fork soccer, Chapin soccer, Gray Collegiate soccer, Airport soccer, Irmo soccer


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