The stages of the Orange women’s soccer team’s best season since 2017 started four years ago.
When Jacki Mignosa took over as head coach of the Lady Panthers, she brought up freshmen and had them play varsity. Against perennial state championship contenders like Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill, it was very much like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. For Mignosa, it was development.
As the former junior varsity coach at Orange, Mignosa took over the varsity reins in 2017.
“We finally at the product of those younger players growing into varsity level play,” Mignosa said. “I think it’s been successful. We’ve had a great season. That’s been part of my strategy to develop a feeder program.”
Orange enters tonight’s home finale against Chapel Hill with an overall record of 7-3-1. Despite a disappointing loss to Northwood in Pittsboro on Monday night, the Lady Panthers are guaranteed its first winning season in four years. From a rivalry standpoint, Orange has swept crosstown rival Cedar Ridge for the first time since 2015, which was the last time the Lady Panthers reached the 3A State Playoffs.
Co-Captain Logan Rogers is a four-year member of the varsity team. Rogers is the daughter of Sonya Barnes Rogers, who was a member of the first varsity women’s soccer team fielded at Orange in the 1989-1990 season. Rogers’ older sister, Jordan, is now a midfielder at William Peace University in Raleigh. Her younger sister, Sydney, is a member of Orange’s defensive line that has been vital to this year’s success.
As Mignosa was in the midst of her rebuilding plan, the Stanford Chargers Middle School team created its own reverberations across youth soccer circles. In 2018, the Chargers stunned Phillips to win the Orange-Person Athletic Conference Championship. It was the first time ever that Stanford defeated all four members of the OPAC’s Southern Division teams (McDougle, Philips, Culbreth and Smith)
“I do feel like that’s an important aspect of how these girls get along,” Mignosa said. “They played together at the middle school level and transitioned to the high school level and they’re such a good group of girls. They get along well, yet they can still be very competitive at the high school level. Which is very important because he always say you practice the way you play. And if you’re not going to practice hard against your own teammates, then you’re not going to play hard against your own opponents.”
In the victory over Phillips in the OPAC Championship game, Madison Orange scored the game-winning goal, assisted by Lauren Garcia.
Three years later, Orange and Garcia are sophomores leading the way into a new era of Orange soccer that will take them away into a new conference next spring. It will be a league firmly entrenched away from the Chapel Hill brigade and into Alamance County, where Eastern Alamance, Western Alamance, Walter Williams and Person will join a new conference that includes current rivals Northwood and Cedar Ridge.
The aptly named Orange has notched four goals in her two-year varsity high school career.
Like a plumb from heaven, dropped in the midst of Mignosa’ rebuilding plan has been junior Bella Brown. A striker who transferred from Alamance Christian School in Graham, Brown has notched two hat tricks this season. She scored three goals against Vance County in a 9-0 victory on March 17 on Hillsborough. Against Cedar Ridge, Brown had two goals against Cedar Ridge on March 22 at Red Wolves Stadium.
“We’re connecting passes much better,” Brown said. “We moved up the field much faster rather than keeping it. We aren’t turning it over as much as we have been. I like all the teammates. They’ve welcomed me in and I like the way we advance the ball. We advance it instead of keeping it.”
Brown has been credited with a team-leading eight goals.
There’s also been a reliable backline that’s included freshman Ella Wimsatt and Channing Mahanes .
“I think one of our best things about our teams is our defensive line,” Mignosa said. “They’re really strong and they’re young. We have (sophomore) Allison Torkeiwtz and Sydney Rogers. There’s another freshman in Sydney Rogers that makes our line strong.”
Orange will conclude the regular season with road games against East Chapel Hill on Thursday and at Northern Durham next Tuesday.