JACKSON County’s toughest battles still lie ahead, but the Lady Panther soccer team is lighting up the early-season scoreboard in the meantime.
Now 6-1, Jackson County rides a five-game winning streak, outscoring the competition 38-1 over that span.
“Our toughest part of our schedule is ahead,” first-year Jackson County coach Joe Ridgway said. “Jefferson beat North Oconee, so it’s going to be a battle with East Jackson, Jefferson, North Oconee and Oglethorpe.”
The Lady Panthers, who blasted Elbert County 9-0 Monday, face defending 8-AA South champ North Oconee Thursday.
Jackson County and Jefferson are tied for the subregion lead at 2-0 as the race for the 8-AA title moves into March.
Jackson County faces Oglethorpe County March 13, Jefferson on March 27 and East Jackson on March 29.
“The games coming up with those schools, they’re going to be competitive,” Ridgway said. “It’s going to be fun. We’ll get tested to see really what we’re like.”
So far, there’s been no shortage of scoring.
Sophomore Katie Phillips has been piling up goals at a staggering pace — 14 over the last five games — after missing the first of couple contests due to obligations with basketball. She’s recorded three hat tricks and scored a season-high four goals Monday against Elbert County.
“She’s an amazing athlete, a multi-sport athlete,” Ridgway said, “and does a lot for the school athletically. She’s in the weight room every morning at like 6 a.m. She’s just an athlete.”
It’s not just Phillips getting in on the action.
Five other players scored in Monday’s romp, including Sydney Baird who has five goals this year. Maddie Newton finished with three assists, while Baird had two.
Ridgway points to other players throughout the lineup, like Rachel Pasko, who is “a rock” in the back for the Lady Panthers; Victoria Fontana, who is a goalkeeper with big soccer potential; Allison Reilly, who helps anchor the defense; Kaitlyn Parker, who has been strong in the midfield and Brianna Manculich, a forward, who has stepped up as a freshman.
A big difference in the level of play is that all of the Lady Panther starters play club ball. Ridgway soon expects that every player on the team will play club ball.
That influence has the potential to be tremendous, not only with Jackson County but other teams within the county, too, Ridgway said.
The coach expects big things out of the county in soccer in the coming years.
“This is exciting because it’s just blossoming up,” Ridgway said. “We’re just starting to see the impact of that club ball coming in. It’s just a fun time to be at Jackson County.”