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Eastside girls soccer starting to connect as a unit
Lauren Davis
Lauren Davis (10) attempts a shot in a regular season game last season. This year, she's a senior leader for the Lady Eagles. - photo by Covington News/File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Prior to Eastside girls soccer’s season starting, head coach Joel Singleton labeled this year’s group as the “least inexperienced returning varsity team.” That coupled with a few key injuries has seemed to play a role in the Lady Eagles 2-4-2 start to the campaign. 

But the Lady Eagles have seemed to turn a corner coming off their second win of the year on Feb. 28 against Jackson High School. Eastside beat the Lady Devils 6-4. 

Senior forward Lauren Davis highlighted one big difference in Feb. 28’s result compared to final scores prior. 

“I think we connected more,” Davis said. “Not only with our touches, but on a mind level knowing where our teammates wanted the ball to be placed.” 

Davis, along with junior midfielder Sophia Leal, were recognized by Singleton as two of the team’s leaders. 

Leal agreed with Davis’ point about the importance of connecting while on the field. 

“If we’re not connecting, then we’re not going to connect passes and we’re not going to be moving in the right areas for each other,” Leal said. “If we’re on the same page, it just works a lot better.” 

Davis’ goal total is seven — including one scored on Feb. 28 — with one assist. Meanwhile, Leal has netted five goals alongside two assists. 

The two have played together since they were around seven years old in club soccer. But other players on the team haven't had that chance. 

Leal has noticed that, by being eight games into this season, the team chemistry has grown tremendously.

Sophia Leal
Sophia Leal (4) attempts a corner kick during a regular season match last season. Now, Leal is a junior midfielder for the team. - photo by Covington News/File Photo

“At the beginning, everyone was new and some people hadn’t even met each other yet,” Leal said. “Some met for the first time at tryouts. I feel like we are practicing all together and, the more games we’ve played, the more we’re connecting on the field.”  

Players also plan times away from team events  to help with building the team’s camaraderie. 

“The chemistry has grown,” Davis said. “We’ve had team dinners and we’ve all hung out together outside of practice and games. It’s definitely grown from  the first time we met each other.” 

Singleton labeled Leal and Davis as two of the team’s leaders this season. 

Both players have taken that prestigious role seriously in helping the inexperienced players learn the game. 

“When [younger players] ask questions, I try to explain it better to them so they can get a better understanding,” Leal said. “We tell them to watch the film on themselves, take notes if they need to and just see what they can work on. Also encouraging them to go home or stay after with some teammates and work on your touches, passes, shooting and all that.” 

Another factor into Eastside’s up and down start in 2023 has been a few key injuries. 

For instance, Mia Mostek is expected to be out all season due to a preseason injury. But one key contributor to last year’s success, Joanna Funes, made her triumphant return to the field against Jackson. 

Davis stressed how Funes’ return makes life easier for everyone else as well as improving the connectivity between players, too. 

“‘Jo’ adds to the team, because she gives us more chances to pass more rather than booting it up the field and letting the forwards go up and shoot,” Davis said. “She definitely adds to the passing game.” 

Funes made her presence known on Feb. 28, too, with a goal and an assist in the first outing of her sophomore season. That helped Eastside have its highest goal total in a single match to this point in the season.  

But even though Leal and Davis both believe the team is headed in the right direction, they believe there’s still room to grow. 

Eastside is currently 2-4-2 overall and 0-1 in Region 8-AAAAA. In addition to last week’s win, the Lady Eagles beat Walnut Grove 5-0 on Valentine’s Day. They tied 4-4 with Ola to kick off the season along with a 0-0 tie against Southeast Whitfield Academy. 

Of the four losses, Eastside has dropped two by two goals and suffered a 5-0 region-opening loss to Loganville on Feb. 21. 

No matter the past results, the Lady Eagles are looking forward to the second half of the season. 

“There’s definitely still room for improvement,” Leal said. “We’ve had good matches, but I think we’ll have one of our best ones soon.” 

Eastside returns to Region 8-AAAAA action on March 7 against Clarke Central (6-4, 1-1) at home. Tuesday’s match will be a crucial one for the Lady Eagles to return to the state playoffs. 

More so than that, Davis is eager to continue building on what the team accomplished throughout last week’s win. 

“I’m looking forward to building this team chemistry more,” Davis said. “Even though we’re still building, we can improve as a team and go out there and win more.”

Correspondent Mike Harrison contributed to this report.