2020 Lady Ironmen soccer senior’s season ends too soon
As the referee watches, Lady Ironmen soccer player Maddie Hampton prepares to move the ball out onto the pitch at Rudisill Stadium.
by MICHAEL E. POWELL
(Editor’s note: These answers for questions about the Lady Ironmen soccer team getting back on the pitch this season were finished and sent in before Gov. Roy Cooper and the NCHSAA’s announcement that all N.C. high school sports were cancelled for the year, along with the remainder of the 2019-2020 school academic year)
Now they will never know how their 2019-2020 Spring Sports soccer season would have ended.
For the remaining Lady Ironmen soccer players – A’Lyric Neal, Maddie Hampton, and Avery Grace Walker – their practicing was all seemingly for naught as everything for the state’s high schools and their many and talented athletes came to a screeching halt.
As early as last week, they still held out hope of being able to get back one last time on the pitch at Rudisill Stadium, their home field.
Said Walker of her time before the closure of the school academic and sports year, “Recently, I have been working at Houser Drug Company since they have been short on employees due to the virus. As an athlete, I haven’t really done anything because I couldn’t play anyway because I got too many concussions.”
Still, she tried to stay active and get in some touches with the ball.
“Whenever my family gets together or my sister comes home, we will kick a soccer ball around or play some type of game together,” she said.
As far as her personal feelings about what effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the team and her athletic status pertaining to the senior year, Avery noted, “I think that I can speak for the whole team when I say this virus has been completely unfair not only to us, but to all athletes.
“No one was expecting any of this to occur; definitely not for this long anyway. It was pretty upsetting that I couldn’t play this soccer season, but I hate it mostly for my fellow seniors in that their last season was taken away from them so quickly.”
She continued, “I hope the team is allowed to get back together to practice. If not practice, I hope we can still get together because we all loved being around each other every day.”
Walker said of her own college plans and the virus’s effect on them, “Other than it cancelling some freshmen events and causing orientation to be online, not really. I’m hoping that nothing else changes, but we will make do with what information we receive.”
In addition to soccer, Walker also played basketball for the Lady Ironmen.
Like her teammate Walker, senior soccer player Maddie Hampton is also a multi-sport player (basketball and soccer).
Before the complete closure of all high school sports and the 2020 school year, Hampton said she tried to stay busy.
Said Hampton, “To keep myself in shape and busy I’ve been running every day around town and babysitting. I’ve even seen Coach Reed while I’ve been running. It’s good to see him since we can’t practice or play anymore.”
Maddie said finding a way to practice soccer without getting on the school’s ball fields or practice areas/gyms was tough.
“(Yes,) since the fields are closed there is no other choice than to pick up a ball and take it to the back yard to get some touches in. Coach sent out a video to improve footwork and it’s pretty fun to do.”
Like Avery Grace, Maddie said her personal feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic are, “It’s ending our senior year and senior sports season couldn’t upset me and my teammates and classmates more!
“We had a year to finish and a final sports season to play but God had other plans. Hopefully we will be able to get back out there whether it’s just for one more game. (Also) it’d be nice to have one last go with our teammates and friends on the team.
“When Coach Reed told us that it might be our last game, I didn’t think that was possible, but here we are. If we’re allowed to play again, I hope we’ll get more practices and games in and hopefully a Senior Night. Everyone is eager to be back on the pitch.”
As for any of her college plans being negatively affected, Hampton said, “So far it hasn’t affected any college plans and let’s hope it continues to stay that way.”
Lady Ironmen soccer senior A’Lyric Neal said when things came to a halt for their team, she kept as busy as she could.
“I’ve been doing little exercises on my porch that I’ve found on YouTube and going running when I can, and I’ve been doing little drills, such as going inside-outside on a straight line, touching the soccer ball with the outside of my foot then doing inside, and wall passes.”
Of things stopping so soon, Neal said, “I am sad that the season had to end so soon and I am sure the rest of my team feels the same way.”
She added she hopes that if the NCHSAA clears it she and her teammates can finish their season up, but knows now such will not be the case due to the painful news last week.
As for Ms. Neal’s college plans being adversely affected by the coronavirus, she said, “No, it hasn’t (affected them), but hopefully, this pandemic clears up before August!”