Wheatmore Warriors wind up special soccer stretch

Record careers end for girls’ program

TRINITY – Wheatmore came up shy of returning to the Class 2A state championship game in girls’ soccer after playing in the final the past two years.

Yet the impact produced by the Warriors might be far reaching.

“It has been a heckuva ride,” Wheatmore coach Rick Massey said.

Wheatmore was the 2022 state champion and the 2023 runner-up. This year, the season ended in the West Region final.

“I never dreamed of winning the states,” Massey said of the 2022 season. “This creates energy and people want a part of it.”

That’s what he has noticed from fellow members of the Piedmont Athletic Conference. He said league teams have been on the rise trying to keep up with the Warriors (17-5).

“We get everybody’s best,” Massey said. “Our conference is getting stronger because of this. We’re creating this. It’s pressure.”

Certainly Ellie Garrison’s record-setting career was a big part of Wheatmore’s success. She’s the all-time state leader in goals for girls’ soccer, finishing with 277.

Massey said he appreciated this season in particular because unlike the past two years, the Warriors had two primary scorers rather than three. That meant extra attention for Garrison and junior Natalie Bowman.

“It’s easier to be more successful in trios,” he said.

The Warriors tried to shore up the defensive end. Lucy Lockwood joined the team as goalkeeper for the past two seasons.

Garrison had a role in that.

“Ellie is my best friend and she recruited me to play,” Lockwood said.

Garrison said: “A big help. She already plays volleyball and she’s a good athlete and she’s used to it.”

Massey said he wanted to provide recognition to players other than those with offensive numbers. Shutouts were rewarded with pizza, or sometimes he’d mix it up and bring donuts to celebrate shutouts.

Lockwood’s 27 career shutouts set a school record. Playing a position where “you’re going to get blamed for a loss,” she said she aimed to maintain the team’s credentials.

Yet there were times the Warriors made it easy on her.

“Sometimes I’m daydreaming down there,” Lockwood said.

By Bob Sutton