ROCKINGHAM — A pair of Lady Raider soccer players were selected to this year’s All-Sandhills Athletic Conference team.
Junior Michala Nechvilova and sophomore Gabby Lutz both earned their first respective nod to the postseason team, a part of the 26-player roster.
The All-SAC team was released following Pinecrest High School’s loss in the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A East playoffs on Monday.
Both Lady Raiders played their first full season of varsity soccer, and helped Richmond to a fifth-place finish in the conference standings.
The Lady Raiders had a 10-12-1 overall record this spring, a 4-7-1 mark against SAC opponents and made the postseason for the seventh straight year.
As a team this spring, Richmond scored 34 goals in 23 matches (1.48 goals per match).
Nechvilova, an outside and center back, and Lutz, a center midfielder, were both starters on this year’s team that adjusted to the newly realigned 3A/4A split conference.
Head coach Chris Larsen said both selections were deserving, especially for the way Nechvilova and Lutz operated in their respective roles.
“To be first-year varsity players and be named to the All-Conference team speaks highly of their play this season,” Larsen said. “I had envisioned Gabby playing center mid, but she picked up a lot of really impressive minutes as a sophomore. She was really important in our scheme and was able to shut down a lot of top scorers.
“Mich, for the one year we had her, was really valuable to our team,” he added. “She slid into the outside and center back spots after some injuries and was the glue that kept us together. This is something she can take home with her, and hopefully Gabby can use this as a stepping stone for the next two years.”
Pinecrest and Union Pines, which split the regular-season conference title, both had a conference-high seven players selected. Winning “Defensive Player of the Year” was Lady Patriot Savannah Dunahay.
The SAC’s “Goalkeeper of the Year” went to the Lady Vikings’ Kadence Miller, and Union Pines head coach James Horwath was named “Coach of the Year.” Gillian Garrison, of Lee County, was tabbed “Offensive Player of the Year.”
An integral part of Richmond’s midfield, Lutz played a big role as the team’s holding mid. That job consisted of her taking on a more defensive role, which Larsen said doesn’t equate to flashy stats, but helped the team function on the field.
Lutz found the back of the net twice this season, scoring in a pair of wins. Her first goal came in a 2-1 win over non-conference Terry Sanford, a game-winner from the top of the 18-yard box in the 45th minute.
Also scoring in a win against rival Scotland High School, Lutz was part of a five-player scoring effort in a 5-0 decision. That goal also came from just inside the box, a hard strike following a failed defensive clear.
“I was really excited and surprised,” Lutz said of when she found out she was All-Conference. “And I was really happy that Mich got it too because she really deserves it.
“I wasn’t used to playing a holding mid, I had always been more of an attacking mid,” she added. “With this season, there was an opportunity to play defensive mid and I stepped up and learned how to play that to help the team.”
A foreign-exchange student from the Czech Republic, Nechvilova saw her responsibilities vary throughout the season. She started off in the midfield before injuries on the team saw her find a starting spot along the back line.
Switching between center and outside back, Nechvilova helped the defense mesh keep opposing offenses out of the net. A physical player, she also became one of several Lady Raiders to take corner kicks and free kicks.
Scoring her lone goal of the season in a match against Lee County, Nechvilova scored in the 12th minute off a free kick. She sent a low shot through a wall of defenders from 20 yards, bouncing it twice before entering the net.
“My experience was really good with the team this year,” Nechvilova said. “I think we had a really good crew and I will really miss everybody.
“I was surprised to make All-Conference and also excited,” she added. “I play defense back home, so I was used to that position already when I got moved there. This was a fun experience and I learned a lot.”