High School Sports

Sheets, Jacklin cream of the crop in girls soccer

Nation Ford coach Ben Jacklin and Fort Mill's Ashleigh Sheets have been named The Herald's all-area girls soccer coach and player of the year.
Nation Ford coach Ben Jacklin and Fort Mill's Ashleigh Sheets have been named The Herald's all-area girls soccer coach and player of the year.

Fort Mill's Ashleigh Sheets comes by her athletic skills honestly.

Her dad, Ken Sheets, is a former linebacker for North Carolina and the Philadelphia Eagles. Her mom, Angela, was a competitive gymnast at Winthrop. And her sister, Elizabeth, will be a senior at Wofford next year and plays on the school's volleyball team.

"Sports have always been prominent at our house,'' Sheets said. "There has never been a situation where we didn't get the support and encouragement we needed from our parents. I have a 10-year old brother, Taylor, and he's also involved in sports.''

Sheets is a soccer player. She gave up dancing, piano, gymnastics and basketball when she was 12 because she enjoys being outside and wanted to concentrate on soccer only.

Talk to any of the girls coaches in this area about Sheets, and you'll get nothing but glowing remarks, certainly nothing negative. Sheets was a shoo-in for The Herald's All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year. She was Region 3-AAAA's player of the year, an all-state pick and was selected to play in the North-South All-Star Game.

The Herald's All-Area Girls Soccer Coach of the Year is making history. Ben Jacklin is the first honored coach from Nation Ford, which opened this year.

His rival coach, Fort Mill's Jim Finnerty, highly recommended that Jacklin be chosen.

Nation Ford was 11-5-1, 9-5 in Region 3-AAAA. Jacklin, who hails from Racine, Wis., said the team had six girls who play club soccer and the others were athletes from other sports who stepped in to help fill the roster.

All of them are back next year because Nation Ford did not have a senior class.

"From here, it will be tough to follow up on what we did this year,'' Jacklin said. "I don't know what to expect, but I'm excited about the future. Springfield Middle School and Fort Mill Middle had good teams and we are getting some good kids from them.

"Our returning club players got on good teams at club tryouts, and I'm sure they will progress as well. We were the first team in school history to be in the state rankings, even though it was 15th. The girls didn't know what to make of it, but they were excited and it put a little pressure on us. I'm just glad we don't have to face Ashleigh any more.''

Sheets will be playing soccer for the United States Military Academy (Army) next year. She took a quick glance at Wofford, where she would have been reunited with her sister, but decided to go elsewhere and make a name for herself.

"When Elizabeth first went to Wofford, I thought maybe I could, too,'' Sheets said. "She's been my role model most of my life and I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

"But Army recruited me and invited me up to visit. After hearing about all the opportunities and success of graduating from there, it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.''

Sheets will owe the Army five years of active duty when she graduates. Her options will include playing for the off-service military team that travels the world or she can get an athletic internship.

"I think it would be cool to coach up there for six months, but I don't think I could take the cold that long,'' Sheets said.

Sheets plays midfield, a position not conducive to scoring goals because the players there set up the offense and play defense. Still, she scored 10 goals and had 13 assists, good numbers for a player at her position.

"My strength is that I read the game well,'' she said. "I have played for a long time and can read where the ball is going. A lot of people don't like playing defense, but I do.

"My background when I was younger was defense and it kind of sticks with you. As I got older, I started getting more into the offense and I've played every position in high school except goalie.''

Jacklin, who teaches freshman English at Charlotte's Myers Park, was a girls soccer assistant at Charlotte Catholic for five years before crossing the state line.

He found out about the Nation Ford job from a club coach who lives in this area and let Falcons athletics director Brian Turner know he was interested in coaching the soccer team.

"It was an interesting situation with the fields at a new school and having to move around for practice,'' Jacklin said. "Coming in and not knowing South Carolina soccer that well, I had to learn the dynamics, who the other schools were and what the competition would be like.

"I knew Fort Mill's reputation, but since I moved down here, I've immersed myself into soccer because I stopped playing in the eighth grade. I've worked camps with coaches in the Charlotte area and learned the ropes again.''