Fort Mill Times

A chain of leadership

For seniors Ashleigh Sheets and Kirsten Whitman, when it comes to playing on the Fort Mill High girls soccer team, one game stands out in there minds.

It's not a recent game or anything that they recall with fondness, but the 2005 state championship game, which Fort Mill lost 4-3 in double overtime to West Ashley, is hard memory to erase. The Lady Jackets did not bring home the title despite leading 3-1 with under 30-minutes to go.

They agree that the only thing that will get that memory out of their heads is getting back to the state championship game and winning it. They both feel this year's team can do just that.

"This year, we have came together more as a team," Sheets said, who signed earlier this year to play soccer for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "I love motivating the team the best I can."

Sophomore Taylor Parker agreed.

"The team has bonded," she said. "The things the seniors have put together has helped."

Sheets said the seniors on the team have taken a special interest into making the team close, both on and off the field. The seniors head up things like team breakfasts and sleep overs and are planning a white water rafting trip.

"Last year it was more separated [by grade level]," Parker said. "But this year, classes doesn't seem to matter."

Fort Mill is loaded with seniors and sophomores. Some of the seniors were on the team when the Lady Jackets lost in the state finals. Others weren't.

One of those seniors who stepped up her game for Fort Mill this year is Whitman.

"She has always been capable of playing at this style," said head coach Jim Finnerty. "I am just impressed with her being able to step up to that next level."

Whitman said the thing that helped her the most was taking some time off from the game.

"I took last year's club season off and came back this year really motivated," she said.

There are eight sophomores on the team, but Parker has put herself in the forefront. Parker has scored seven goals and has six assists in 11 games.

"The sophomore class is really strong," Finnerty said. "But Taylor is definitely the standout."

Both Whitman and Sheets said that with Parker leading the way, the future for the next couple of years is bright for the Lady Jackets soccer club.

"She is definitely the leader of the underclassmen," Sheets said.

However, it's this year, they feel, that the team has some unfinished business to take care of.

For the past couple of years, Sheets said, the team hasn't reached its full potential and knows this is the seniors' last shot.

"If we are going to win a state championship, we are going to have a hard road," Sheets said. "People are recognizing if we have these high goals, we need to step up the intensity. It's everything the seniors want and we are trying to install that in the team.

"And we hope they understand the importance of it," Whitman added.

Both Parker and Whitman look at Sheets as the team leader.

"She is the big leader on the team," Parker said. "She gives us pep talks."

Sheets has four goals and three assist in 11 games this season. Finnerty said although Sheets' looks out more for the team than herself.

"Her ability to be a teammate and to do whatever it takes to win is big," Finnerty said.