Cannon School junior, Anna Estep, is turning lots of heads this spring as she leads Cannon’s varsity girls soccer team to what is likely to be its most successful season in school history. Anna’s overtime goal in overtime earlier this week led the Cougars to their first-ever win against conference rival Charlotte Latin. The story below was published in the Charlotte Observer last week.
(Published by The Charlotte Observer (Cabarrus News), April 9, 2013)
Cannon School’s Anna Estep said she doesn’t know why she has a knack for putting the soccer ball in the back of the net.
With 28 goals in the Cougars’ first eight games, the junior is proving she’s one of the best scorers in the area, regardless of the reason.
“She’s got good speed,” said Cannon coach Matt Barlow. “Combine that with her technical ability and her strength, and she’s just hard to stop. … She can score in so many different ways.”
Estep can finish from up close or from long distance as well as from set pieces, and with her right or left foot. She can rely on her power or her finesse. She can spin off with defenders on her back or beat them one-on-one to score.
“Everyone has fits with her,” said Barlow. “That’s why she gets so much attention defensively. Even when she gets their best defender, she still rises to the occasion and finds a way.”
Despite seeing man marks against some opponents, Estep already had six hat tricks – when a player scores three goals in a game – through Cannon’s 7-1 start. She tallied five goals in games against First Assembly, Metrolina Christian and High Point Christian. Estep also scored on two free kicks in a 2-1 win against Charlotte Country Day.
The 17-year-old, who also had eight assists to start the season, said she hopes to keep up her scoring pace against tougher CISAA competition, including defending five-time state champion Charlotte Latin.
“It does put a bit of pressure on me,” said Estep. “But I kinda like that.”
After scoring 36 goals as a sophomore, she attributes her improved performance to her offseason work. To become a better all-around player, Estep focused on developing her fitness and foot speed as well as her ability to score off set plays.
“There’s some aspects of my game that are still weak, and I still need to work on those,” she said. “But overall, I’m better as a player. That’s all you can hope for.”
Barlow agreed that’s a key for her high-scoring pace.
“We haven’t tried to make her a bigger focus,” he said. “She’s a year better player than she was last year. She’s just stepped up her game to where she’s become an even more dominant player than she was.”
Estep, who committed to play in the Ivy League at Penn, also credits her teammates, who have combined for 24 assists, with her success.
Even though Estep takes nearly 70 percent of the team’s shots and scores 75 percent of its goals, Barlow said, there’s no animosity toward her on the team.
“She’s not arrogant,” said Barlow. “She sets her goals high, she works hard, and she deserves everything that she gets.”
Estep has help from a young team that is getting key contributions from freshmen Christina Stylianou, Jena Metwalli, Katie McClanahan and Dina Fahmey. The young players have impressed Estep.
“We were a little worried at the beginning of the season, because we lost some players to injury, and obviously seniors from last year,” she said. “But our underclassmen have really stepped up, and everyone’s playing really well as a team.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Kendall Thomas, who had allowed 10 goals while recording 81 saves through eight games, has come up big for the Cougars, as have senior captains Paige Brown and Leah Baker and junior Juliana Sirois.
“As the season goes on, as the games get tougher, everyone pitches in together and works harder for each other,” said Estep.
Barlow said he hopes Cannon continues to grow to position itself to achieve its main goal: making the state semifinals, which Cannon will host this postseason.
“A great start isn’t as fun as a great finish,” said Barlow. “So we’ll see how it goes at the end.”
This copyrighted story appeared on April 9, 2013 in The Charlotte Observer‘s Cabarrus News section.