Senior goalkeeper Abby Monteith vowed she wouldn’t cry on Orange’s Senior Night, though no one would have blamed her if she did.

She had earned it through the joy of being a vital part of the greatest postseason run in Orange women’s soccer history last year–and the agony of everything she endured just to return to the pitch this year.

Orange’s Senior Night included the obligatory banners honoring each of the seniors hanging along the grandstands, an array of orange and white balloons greeting spectators as they entered Orange Soccer Stadium and plenty of emotion among players, parents and fans. After Orange defeated crosstown rival Cedar Ridge 5-1, the Truck Bed Rowdies, a group of fans who watch every home game from the north end zone sitting on the tailgates of their trucks, stormed the pitch like Wrexham had just earned promotion to England’s Football League.

Orange sophomore Elliana Sullivan-Gaddy scored her first hat trick of the season as the Lady Panthers improved to 7-6-2, 5-4 in the Central Carolina Conference.

Sullivan-Gaddy factored in on all five goals for Orange. She assisted on the game-winner by another sophomore, Caroline Cathey, in the second minute, which was wildly ironic. In the opening game between the two teams at Red Wolves Stadium on March 22, they played to a scoreless tie in regulation. The Lady Panthers notched the only tally on an own goal in the second overtime to win 1-0.

In the 15th minute, junior Ella Wimsatt scored on another assist by Sullivan-Gaddy.

Monteith earned the win in net for Orange. Last spring, Monteith was in net when the Lady Panthers advanced to the third round of the 3A State Playoffs for the first time in the 34-year history of the program. In the second half against Walter Williams in Burlington, Monteith suffered a torn ACL sprinting after a loose ball with 32:03 remaining in a 1-1 game. She left the game and faced a long summer to get healthy again.

Undergoing physical therapy at UNC, there were just as many mental tests and physical ones.

“It was a lot of sitting around,” Monteith said. “I think if there’s one thing that I want to voice for all athletes going through injury, it’s the mental health aspect. It’s a lot of sitting and watching. That’s the hardest part. My physical therapist was phenomenal. It’s really hard to get through it, on your own especially. So having people around you and a good support system is just all you can ask for.”

Last Wednesday, Monteith made seven saves as Orange defeated Walter Williams 2-1 to complete a regular season sweep of the Bulldogs.

While Monteith returned to action, another prominent member of the senior class had her 0wn ACL issues. Midfielder Sydney Rogers, a dominant playmaker, was injured while training last October. It would cost her her senior season.

Well, almost all of it.

For her Senior Night, Rogers participated in the opening kickoff agains the Red Wolves. She took the first pass, relayed it out of play and left the game.

Rogers will go on to play in college, like her older sister Jordan, who played at William Peace in Raleigh. While she’s been relegated to the sidelines this year, she’s found ways to keep herself busy.

“It’s been really sad because I don’t get to play,” Rogers, who became the first female in history to score a point for the Orange football team last year. “But it’s fun getting to see the other side of the field. I always will want to be involved in soccer and I think it’s fun that I’ll still get to be involved in high school where I get to have a joy for it. And get to see other people’s joy for it.”

Last season, Rogers scored seven goals and dished out three assists. None of the goals was more precious than the game-winner at Northwood, where she scored in the final minute. Rogers was so elated, she, well, threw up after celebrating, portions of the output landed precariously close to her classmate Madison Orange.

“That was an interesting memory,” Orange laughs. “I’ll never forget that night. That will always be in the back of my brain.”

Madison Orange has spent three seasons on varsity and scored six goals in her career.

Senior Katelyn Van Mater assisted on Sullivan-Gaddy’s second goal in the 52nd minute. Van Mater is no stranger to Senior Nights. Being a three-sport athlete, she’s already had two of them this year.

Along with fellow senior soccer player Isabel Jones, Van Mater was a regular player for the Orange women’s tennis team, which won the first conference tennis championship in school history last fall. Last winter, she was a forward for the women’s basketball squad that reached the state playoffs for the second straight year.

“This means a lot,” Van Mater said about earning the win on Senior Night. “It’s good to earn strong since this was the last senior night.”

Jones, who is second on the team with five goals, has spent four years on the varsity level. Last year, she scored five. Two of them came in playoff wins over Harnett Central and Cape Fear.

“Most of us have played together since out freshman year,” Jones said. “We’re all best friends. It’s sad. We’re all going to different colleges and that’s super emotional. But I’m glad we pulled out the game and it’s a really great win.”

Teresa Rodriguez, a defender who suffered a right foot injury at midseason, was another player who was lost before the season ended.

“It hurts a lot that I won’t get to play for the rest of this season,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s meant a lot for me to grow and be around my friends. To be around my family. Soccer is a big part of me. I hope to play professionally. I also think not going to be able to play without my friends in the future will be tough since we grew up playing together.”

Many of the Orange senior class were members of the 2018 squad at Orange Middle School (then called Stanford Middle School) that won the Orange Person Athletic Conference championship, the first Chargers team to ever won a conference title in women’s soccer.

“It’s like part of a family,” said Hannah Hummel, another senior. “Playing with people that are your friends that would want to spend time with. It’s special.”

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