Call them the Three Musketeers of soccer, but for the Fort Mill Yellow Jackets, they are the backbone of a team pushing for the state soccer title that has thus far eluded them.
Meredith Christopher, Kimber Haley and Erin Wolfe all have left their mark on Fort Mill soccer in one way or another over the last four years, but together they have helped to continue the Jackets’ 52-match region win streak dating back to March 2013 and continued a streak of region titles that is going well into its second decade.
For the past 14 years, Fort Mill High’s girls’ soccer team has either won outright or shared a region title at the 3A, 4A and now 5A levels. This year is no difference as the No. 3-ranked 5A team in the state has put together a perfect 8-0 record en route to another region title.
So keeping the region title at home for Fort Mill hasn’t been as easy for the Jackets this year as in years past as the competition has gotten stronger. But having a new head coach this year in Danielle Center has helped, Wolfe said.
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“We got a new staff and that made a difference,” she said. “That was a huge change. She knew what we needed to work on.”
Haley said one thing that has helped this year is a closeness among teammates that has made all the players push each other.
“The capability is better than ever,” Haley said. “Every time we play, we have to be focused.”
“This is the best year we have had team bonding wise,” Wolfe added. “We have had the best compatibility.”
This year’s roster draws on all cllases, including four freshmen on the varsity team.
“We have a lot of fresh faces,” Christopher said.
However, it’s this trio of seniors that has led the way for Fort Mill. Winning 52 straight region games and not having a slip up in the most important games of the seasons is not an easy thing. So is the pressure there?
Haley says yes.
“I feel the pressure, but we have to take it with a ‘one game at a time’ mentality each game,” she said.
Christopher said every season has been different so that they haven’t been able to take for granted that winning the region title and keeping the streak alive would be simple.
“It’s harder to play teams in the region,” she said. “Every year you get new people and they get new people. You want to keep the mentality to work hard every game.”
Haley added that the bench for Fort Mill is deep, which has helped the Jackets this season and should help them going forward in the playoffs that start this week.
“Every team has amazing players,” she said. “But there isn’t a player on our team that will disappoint us.”
The goal for these seniors is to win a state title before they walk across the stage and graduate. They know this is their last chance and they feel like it is possible.
Another thing that has set this season apart is the occasional bump in the road. They have a 17-4 record on the season, which is considered a high number of losses for Fort Mill soccer.
“The mentality of the team is different this year,” Christopher said. “We have lost games and it has put us in a better position. We can’t be as cocky. We can’t let our guard down.”
“We have a good chance at going to state,” Wolfe added. “We have to give it our all. We have to keep going.”
All three will be playing Division I soccer next year. Haley is headed to Clemson University, Christopher will be playing at Elon University and Wolfe committed to Wofford College.
“It is hard not to get excited for the next step,” Haley said. “But we want to work for each other. We know this is important.”
Christopher said they are hyper aware of how far they have come and the unfinished business ahead.
“This being our last year, it is memorable,” she said. “We have all been playing together since sixth grade. Erin and I have been playing together since third grade.”
Wolfe said the season hasn’t been played for themselves as individuals, but for each player on the team, especially for the seniors.
“We work for each other,” she said. “We want to win state. This is up to us. We want to get it.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MacBanksFM