By PATRICK MacCOON
By PATRICK MacCOONSports WriterA major piece to the postseason puzzle for the Walker Valley girls soccer program could very well come in the form of a talent who was missing last season.After helping …
After helping the Lady Mustangs notch their first district and region championships as a sophomore, Caitlin Dickson was not a part of the 2016 fall season, but is back in full force.
Now, the senior midfielder and Lee University soccer commit is expected to be a key driving force yet again for the No. 1 seed headed into the District 5-AAA tournament that will begin this Saturday.
“Caitlin is just an exceptional player,” said WVHS fifth-year head coach Nathan Brown, who has a 7-4 record in postseason play. “She is addicted to winning. She won’t stop until she puts everything out there.”
With the strength to power booming shots from great distances, tough defense and "plus" ball skills and passing, Dickson has the skills and experience to have a breakout postseason.
“She is one of our key players who can really motivate and lead this team to success,” Brown added. “She is very excited to be a part of this postseason run we are about to embark on, and we are thrilled as well.”
While Walker Valley’s third leading scorer has had several shots turned away by the crossbar this season, the focus for Dickson and her teammates is to play with “heart, passion” and to “execute.”
The Lady Mustangs' 9-2-2 overall mark to go along with a perfect record in district play, in which they outscored opponents 16-2, was made possible by a group that consistently doubled or tripled its opponent’s shot on goal opportunities.
An intense 3-2 double overtime victory over defending district and region champions McMinn County on Sept. 21 saw the winner take more than 30 shots on goal.
“In postseason and rivalry games against tough teams, it is very important for us to have strong shot selection,” Brown said. “We have to make the keeper work and execute more efficiently. That is something we have been practicing a lot lately.”
Walker Valley will begin its postseason journey next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against the winner between No. 4 Ooltewah (7-6-1, 1-3) and No. 5 Cleveland (5-8-2, 0-3-1), Saturday evening at 7.
Meanwhile No. 3 Bradley Central (7-6-2, 1-2-1) will travel to No. 2 McMinn County (10-5-1, 3-1) for a 6 p.m. kickoff Tuesday.
The winners of Tuesday’s matches will meet in the district championship Thursday night, which will be hosted by the higher seed with a TBD start time.
For potential goal scorers such as Taylor Ellis, Lauren Caylor, Sarah Turner, Macy Gibson, Emily Anderson, Summer Kile and Dickson, it will be vital to their postseason dreams to work for high percentage opportunities and not unleash freebies toward the opposing goalkeeper.
Ellis, a fellow Lee University soccer commit along with Cleveland’s stellar keeper Lauren Stutzman and Dickson, will look to continue her all-state caliber season.
The looks should be plentiful for the all-time leading Lady Mustang goal scorer. Ellis has 82 career goals and paced all district scorers with 25 this regular season, which includes the game-winner on a cross from Harris to beat McMinn County in double OT.
But with great expectations and success comes an even bigger challenge for a program expected to play deep into the postseason.
“Being the No. 1 seed, we have a target on our back,” Brown said. “It’s also tough to play teams twice because now they know how we play and they have visuals to study. I’ve told my girls they have all the ability to reach the goals they want to get to. We are excited and hope our seniors end on a fantastic note.”
The unknowns of the postseason, however, are the ones that will keep coaches up at night and also make them live for the big games.
“You just never know what is going to happen,” Brown said. “You are playing every game like it is your last. This is why you coach and play. The postseason is where you get to challenge yourself with the pressure on. There is an excitement in the air this time of year.”
DISTRICT 5-AAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
- CHS keeper Lauren Stutzman has 115 saves and 42 saves in four district contests this season. She's 3 ½ year starter.
- WV’s Emily Anderson, BC’s Anna Stouffer and CHS’s Erin Stutzman tough to break on any side of the field.
- WV’s Kendall Harris is a state track athlete who can break away and create for her teammates, or find the net herself at any given time.
- BC’S Cambree Mayo is second among district scorers with 16 goals
- CHS’ Breana Shields leads her team with six goals
- WV beat McMinn County 2-1 to win the district championship in 2015
- McMinn County will be without its starting goalkeeper Kaitlynn Winder, who had 116 saves and 419 career stops.
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