TRINITY — Every high school student-athlete who becomes part of a sports program hopes to improve from one year to the next.
Whether it’s showing improvement from being a freshman to a sophomore, a sophomore to a junior or a junior to a senior, becoming a better athlete with an increased positive impact is what everyone strives for.
Sometimes, however, on very few occasions, a student-athlete will have to perform at an absolutely incredible level to better the contributions from a year ago. Such is the challenge for Wheatmore High School junior soccer star Ellie Garrison, whose record-setting sophomore year has set the proverbial bar at an incredible height.
Garrison, who helped the Warriors to a perfect 25-0 season and the state 2-A championship last season, set a state record with 77 goals as a sophomore. Now her goal is to score even more as a junior and she’s off to a great start.
“I’m so excited to continue this season and for next season,” said Garrison, who has already scored 26 goals this year, including a seven-goal effort against East Davidson last week. “I am just hoping I can continue on this road and break my record this year and then the year after that. There’s pressure, but it mostly comes from myself and my expectations.”
Garrison has helped the Warriors to a perfect 6-0 record heading into action earlier this week, with a 31-game winning streak stretching over two seasons. The current winning streak is the third longest in NCHSAA history, behind only the 32-game winning streak of W.A. Hough during the 2012 and 2013 seasons and the 48 straight wins Union Academy recorded from 2018-2021.
The Warriors were scheduled to play Piedmont Athletic Conference games with Randleman Monday and Eastern Randolph Wednesday with the opportunity to stretch that winning streak to 33 for sole possession for the second longest in state history.
Of course, the bulk of those wins in the streak came last year when the Warriors captured their first soccer state title in school history.
“It was really amazing playing on that team and going 25-0,” Garrison said. “Having that experience, obviously, not many people can say they had that experience. It’s really cool to say I was a part of that team.”
Garrison said she never knew she had an opportunity to break the single-season scoring record, which was the 76 goals scored by Wilson Fike’s Sarah Winslow in 2006, until she reached the 60-goal plateau.
“I was not paying attention to numbers at all until I got to 60 goals and other people started telling me about the record,” Garrison said. “I’ve always had a great environment around me. Everyone is encouraging me. When I am out there, I don't feel pressure.”
The Warriors haven’t faced much pressure this season as they have rolled to six easy victories entering this week. WHS recorded a 6-0 win over Ledford, followed by mercy wins of 9-0 over Ragsdale, 10-1 over Southeast Guilford, 9-0 over Lexington and 9-0 over Trinity before recording a 9-1 win over East Davidson. Overall, the Warriors outscored their first six opponents 52-2.
“We have talked about it,” Garrison said about coming off a year in which they won a state title. “We discussed it and we have to have a different mentality because some of these girls have not played before.
“Everyone has to work a little harder. We are going out and practicing hard every day. We have to remind ourselves this is not going to come easily. We have to work harder at practice. It’s different than last year.”
Garrison, who began playing soccer at age 5, has been a key component in the NC Fusion organization in Greensboro. The Fusion qualified for the national tournament in Seattle last year, where they made it to the Sweet 16. Having traveled to tournaments in Florida and New Jersey, the Fusion have already qualified for this year’s nationals, which will be held in San Diego.
“She works out and goes to work even after practice,” WHS coach Rick Maness said. “I don’t have to push buttons to get her moving in the right direction.”
Either while playing with the Fusion or with the Warriors at WHS, Garrison is having fun.
“Whenever you are playing with people who support you and it’s always positive, it’s an amazing environment,” Garrison said. “When you can do good, it changes your whole attitude. A bad day can go away by playing soccer.”
Success also means other teams are well aware of the talent on the Wheatmore team. In order to keep the Warriors motivated, Maness constructed a bullseye for the team to see each and every time they take the field. A win to stretch their winning streak means the opportunity to add a number to the middle of the bullseye.
“Being 25-0 and winning the state championship, other teams are going to look at you differently,” Garrison said. “We do have this target on our backs and people want to beat us. Rick wants to push us harder for us to be better. The bullseye is in the locker room, so everyone can see it before we go onto the field.”
After scoring 29 goals as a freshman, Garrison had 132 career goals entering this week. The NCHSAA career scoring record is held by South View’s Carolyn Lindsay, who scored 217 goals from 2000-2003.
“We just want to do our best and score as many as we can and as fast as we can to keep the energy high and keep going,” Garrison said.
That’s exactly what Garrison and the Warriors have done.