Ashley Cooper is a senior on the Greenbrier girls soccer team. That doesn't necessarily stand out on a squad that boasts 11 seniors.
What does stand out is what she did off the field last week. On Tuesday, Cooper sealed her commitment to the next level by signing with Georgia Perimeter College, a junior college in Dunwoody, Ga.
"I wanted to play soccer in college, but I was hesitant," Cooper said. "For most college athletes it's all the time sports. By going to a junior college I don't have to make a full four-year commitment."
While the next four years are still to be determined for Cooper, she said her past four years couldn't have been better.
As one of the Lady Wolfpack seniors, Cooper has been a part of a Greenbrier team that has won 78 percent of its games since 2004. This season, the squad entered the weekend at 7-1-1 and a perfect 4-0 in Region 2-AAAA play.
"It's so much fun playing with these girls," Cooper said. "It's crazy hearing the announcer call us out on the field. It's senior, senior, senior all down the line."
The senior leadership has not only paid off for the Lady Wolfpack this season, it has been a necessity. According to Greenbrier coach Alex Heider, his girls are in the middle of the toughest schedule the team has ever seen.
"We have three teams that finished second last year, and two teams that were state champs," Heider said of the opponents on this year's schedule. "All the other teams that are not in our region are ranked in the top 10 in their classifications. It was designed with the end in mind."
That end is a Class AAAA State Championship. The Lady Wolfpack have lost in the state quarterfinals each of the past two years. With those wounds still fresh, Greenbrier is looking to get over the state quarterfinal hump this year. Their path to achieving that goal goes through region rivals Lakeside and Evans.
"Those two teams are rival games, and they're always looking to beat you," Heider said. "We have to keep our focus because we have to go to their place. We can't overlook them."
In a nonregion contest earlier this season, Greenbrier knocked off Lakeside 2-1.
When the two teams meet again on April 20 at Lakeside for the final game of the regular season, the contest could be for all the region marbles. Both teams entered the weekend at an undefeated 4-0 in region play.
Lakeside has won 3 of the past 5 contests against Greenbrier, but the Lady Wolfpack have taken wins in their most recent two meetings.
"This game is way more intense than the first one," Cooper said of their annual end-of-the-season meeting with Lakeside. "It means more, and actually most of us like playing at Lakeside better because our fans are closer to the field."
As it stands, Greenbrier is the favorite to take the region title. The Lady Wolfpack are ranked No. 8 in the state and have defeated their opponents by a 49-7 margin. In four region games, they have yet to allow a goal.
"We can have state if we want it," Cooper said. "We have to take care of the region first."
The Lady Wolfpack hit the road this week for games at Aquinas and at Eastside in Greenville, S.C. before returning to region play by playing host to Effingham County on April 1.
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