Newcomers Cherry, Gray giving Woods Charter a lift


The Woods Charter girls soccer team is on a quest for redemption this spring after falling in last season’s 1A state final, and this year they have two new weapons in their arsenal.

These weapons — freshman Amelia Cherry and junior Sienna Gray — put their skills on display in the team’s 4-0 win over Seaforth last Wednesday. Cherry had a hat trick in the first half, and Gray chimed in with a goal in the second half.

While Woods Charter — which was undefeated as of press time Tuesday — already returns junior Leyla Noronha, who paced the Wolves with 50 goals last spring, as well as seniors Lucy Miller and Chloe Richard, Cherry and Gray are making a name for themselves so far this season. Cherry leads the team with 16 goals, while Gray is second in goals (13) and leads the team in assists (9).

Cherry kept it simple after last week’s win.

“It was great,” she said. “It was really exciting. I’m working really hard with this team as a freshman.”

When head coach Graeme Stewart was asked about Cherry’s performance, he simply stated, “She’s got more to come.”

“She’s talented,” he said. “She sees the pass. She’s got a great shot. She can be where she wants to be as she grows into the game.”

Stewart has been especially impressed by how quickly Cherry has adjusted to the high school game. Transitioning from 8th grade to 9th grade means sometimes you’re going up against girls three years older than you. For Cherry, it hasn’t been a problem.

“That’s a big physical difference,” Stewart said. “She plays a high level club, but you don’t see that in club, so you have to get used to it in high school. We’ve had some big, tough games against other 2A schools and she now knows. She knows her role and she’s playing really, really well.”

Gray, who had the Wolves’ fourth goal of the match, is a transfer who played at Northwood last year and led the Chargers in goals (12). Stewart said few players transfer in to Woods Charter, and Gray is a “major addition” for the Wolves.

“She plays with an intensity,” Stewart said. “She’s got good feet, skill and work rate. She just really got in front of (Seaforth).”

In addition to Gray’s goal, the pressure she and Noronha applied from the forward positions was disruptive for the Hawks. The two helped the Wolves dominate possession, as the Hawks struggled to even bring the ball to midfield without the juniors suffocating them.

Noronha said this was all according to plan. The Wolves scouted several of Seaforth’s quality club players in the middle, such as freshman Sofia Viana, and made sure to shut them down.

While Gray and Cherry surely boost Woods Charters’ chances of making it back to the 1A state final, Stewart is quick to emphasize to his players that the goal is still “way off.” It’s a faint notion, something Stewart said “would be nice”, but doesn’t occupy much of his mental space at the moment.

“We don’t talk about that,” he said. “The cliché is it’s one game at a time. If that happens, fantastic. We got there last year and we enjoyed it. We didn’t get the result we want, but the team we played against are an outstanding team. So what we do use it for is we know the level of play that it takes, which is why we’re playing really good teams like Seaforth.”

Woods Charter hosted Uwharrie Charter on Tuesday and also plays at home Thursday at 6 p.m. against Northwood.