Varsity girls soccer team ranks first in the nation for high school division


The Varsity Girls soccer team huddles up before a game to get in the winning spirit.

Despite numerous injuries, conflicts, and challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Westminster varsity girls soccer team has persevered to achieve the first overall ranking in American high school girls soccer, as decided by the prestigious United Soccer Coaches poll. 

“Being ranked first in the nation is an honor that’s very reflective of the work we’re doing,” said junior and Georgetown soccer commit Henley Tippins. “At the same time it’s also difficult having a target on our back, so we’re trying to keep the balance between being happy, but also remembering how many people are out there to beat us.”

The players earned their ranking by completing their first undefeated regular season since 1984 and posting a +100 goal differential throughout their season. Additionally, the team’s success in past seasons gave them status as an elite program, which helped them attract attention from the United Soccer Coaches as they created their rankings.

Through nearby soccer clubs like Concord Fire and Tophat, strong players have consistently been fed into the Westminster soccer program, which features many collegiate commits on the roster. Additionally, the closure of the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy, an organization that some girls previously played for, allowed many players to join the Westminster team who previously were not permitted to participate in high school soccer. 

This year, the team’s success did not come easily, as the COVID-19 pandemic made it much more difficult for the team to bond.

“At the beginning of the season we didn’t play very well together, and the normal chemistry wasn’t there because we couldn’t participate in the team bonding activities we usually have because of COVID,” said junior and UVA soccer commit Helen Symbas. “But later in the season, we’ve started taking time after practices to talk and bond with each other, which has made us play a lot better.”

One season highlight came during the Cats’ defeat of the top-ranked team in 7A, West Forsyth.

“Our biggest victory this season came against a very dangerous West Forsyth team,” said coach Clark Meyer. “We played heroically and won.” 

Another defining moment came during the match against Marist when the War Eagles scored first, forcing the Cats into an adverse position. However, the team fought back to win the game.

“The start to the game against Marist was a bit of a surprise,” said Tippins. “But we were able to battle back and win, which was really fun.”

Finally, the Cats decisively defeated Lovett in the Battle of Buckhead.

“Winning against Lovett was a big highlight for us even though we expected it to be a little more difficult than it was,” said Symbas.

Starting off the season, the Cats received extra motivation from the popular Atlanta Buckhead Couples Instagram account, a page that covers high school life, events, and interests in Atlanta. The account posted a picture of the Blessed Trinity soccer team, captioned, “Happy soccer season. BT is surely winning state. Westminster still sucks, what’s new?” 

“We were already motivated to beat BT because they were one of the best teams we played this season, but after that post, we got even more motivation to beat them,” said junior Helen Moseley. “When we beat BT it was super exciting for the team because we got to show that we were better than BT.”

In addition to the factors that have differentiated this season from previous ones, the recent GHSA reclassification of schools has impacted the playoff landscape for the Cats in 3A. In the reclassification, Lovett was moved from a 3A to 2A school, meaning that the Cats will not have the opportunity to face off against the Lions, who were previously their biggest competitor, in the playoffs. 

“I’m really excited to play with the team for longer and experience the playoffs because we weren’t able to have playoffs or much of a season at all last year because of COVID,” said Moseley. 

After a first-round 10-0 mercy rule win in twenty minutes against East Jackson, the Cats looked forward to the rest of the 32-team 3A playoffs. Many people anticipated the playoff against GAC, who the Cats defeated 8-0 during the regular season. The GAC team is one of the foremost competitors in the playoffs, and the team represents a challenge to whoever they face.

“The success that we’ve had means that other teams feel a certain lack of belief in their ability to win when they take the field,” said Meyer. “I like that because soccer is a relatively easy sport to pull off an upset in, but when teams show up expecting to lose it takes away the belief that you need to pull off an upset.”

Given their current success, the biggest challenge facing the Cats is coming together as a team, which COVID-19, the influx of new players because of the closure of the DA league, and the individual talent present on the team has made challenging. However, as the season has progressed, the team has had more time to bond and they have formed into a cohesive unit just as the playoffs begin ramping up.

“It’s a team of a bunch of girls who haven’t played together, but it’s becoming more and more fun because we’re starting to get to know each other on and off the field,” said Tippins. “Being able to get closer and build the chemistry has been amazing, and we expect to get even better on the field because of that.”