Tuesday, 16 May 2017 16:31

Hough seniors dreamed of this

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Hough has senior captains in Stephanie Westaway, above, and Elise Gallo. Hough has senior captains in Stephanie Westaway, above, and Elise Gallo.

The last time Hough High played for the state title in girls’ soccer, Elise Gallo and Stephanie Westaway were freshmen on the junior varsity team.

They were in the stands on that late May day in 2014, watching along with everyone else at N.C. State’s Dail Stadium.

“I was on the edge of my seat the entire time,” says Gallo.

That match ended with a 1-0 Hough win over Panther Creek when Courtney Carroll scored an overtime goal after more than 106 minutes of soccer. It was Hough’s second 4A title in three seasons and was a triumphant exit for stars Carroll and goalkeeper Marnie Merritt, who now play alongside one another at Ole Miss.

As that run ended, the dream became real for up-and-coming Huskies Gallo and Westaway, who are now senior captains on a Hough team trying to author a similar postseason story.

“I looked up to them,” says Gallo, “and thought, ‘that’s what I want to be when I’m their age.’”

“They just set such a great example for Hough soccer,” adds Westaway.

The No. 2 seed in the 4A West, Hough is 19-1-2 after earning an 8-0 win over Southeast Guilford in the first round of the state playoffs, and a 5-0 win over Mooresville in the second. The Huskies will host Pinecrest in the third round Wednesday at 7 p.m., and with a victory, would host either Porter Ridge or Charlotte Catholic in the quarterfinals this weekend.

The Huskies are in the mix, and now in their third varsity seasons, Gallo and Westaway have been key to the success. A forward, Gallo is third on the team with 11 goals — including two against Southeast Guilford and one against Mooresville — and she also has seven assists. She has signed with Tusculum College.

Westaway, who has signed with Samford, has bounced back after missing all of last season with an ACL tear. A competitor, she found sitting out to be difficult.

“Last year, I couldn’t have a part in how well we did,” she says. “This year, I can make a difference.”

Westaway has played 977 minutes in goal and has more shutouts (9) than goals allowed (8).

“It’s been incredible to watch her comeback,” says Hough coach David Smith. “The areas of her game that needed to improve improved. She’s in charge back there.”

Smith likes the team chemistry and direction of the program. There are star juniors in Ashlynn Serepca (also a captain) and Madi Oracion, who have combined for 51 goals and 42 assists. Two freshmen, Hailey Matthews and Lea Wissell, start.

And last week, a few alumni stopped by practice and spoke to the team. Smith took it as another sign, like Gallo and Westaway aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the Huskies who played before them, that the program matters not only to those currently in uniform, but those of the past and future as well.

“It gives us that bridge, that link,” he says. “That means a lot.”

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