As the McKinney North girls soccer team finished off a 4-0 win over Princeton on Tuesday, it marked the ninth win in its past 10 matches — good for first place in District 13-5A at 9-0-1. The Lady Bulldogs haven't allowed a single goal over that stretch.
It has been one clean sheet after another for a resurgent North group, outscoring opponents through its first 10 district matches, 42-0. Junior goalkeeper Morgan Paley has had plenty to do with the latter of those two numbers.
Paley and an experienced North back line have surrendered just 10 goals all season, shutting out opponents in 16 of the team's 21 matches — more than three-quarters of its schedule.
It's a rewarding feeling for Paley, who has started in goal for the Lady Bulldogs since she was a freshman. Verbally committed to Oklahoma, Paley was one of several underclassmen to see playing time early into their varsity careers, and that growth has helped shape North into one of the top teams in Class 5A — tabbed No. 2 in its region and No. 10 in the state by Lethal Enforcer.
In this week's student-athlete profile, Paley discusses the Lady Bulldogs' sensational defensive season, her growth as a keeper, and more.
SLM: It's been quite a turnaround for the team this season. With so much continuity from last year, what do you feel has been the biggest difference in the team's level of play this season?
MP: With the continuity from last year and strong senior leadership, we have developed a higher level of commitment and really strong team chemistry. This has helped us to move the ball better this year.
SLM: To have come this far in district without allowing a goal, what is clicking so well in the back for this team of late?
MP: Our back line has a couple of years playing together. Because of our experience together, we have really good communication which helps us support and cover each other on the field. The whole team is also defending well all over the field. Our forwards and midfielders work really hard to win the ball.
SLM: What goes into the communication aspect of playing goalkeeper as far as making sure everyone in the back is on the same page?
MP: Making split-second decisions and being able to see the entire field help me to provide specific instructions and commands not only to my defenders but the midfield and forwards.
SLM: With it being your third season on varsity, how do you feel like you've grown as a goalkeeper over the years?
MP: Each year I have gained more confidence in my soccer skills, soccer knowledge, ability to read the play on the field and communicate to my teammates.
SLM: How long have you been playing soccer and what gravitated you to the sport? And have you always played in goal?
MP: I started playing soccer when I was 4. My brother played soccer at the time and I wanted to be like him. My first team was the Orange Crush and Danica Anaya, who also plays for North, was on the team with me. I was always more of a defensive player, and as soon as I was old enough (second grade) that games were played with a goalkeeper, I moved to that position.
SLM: What is the most memorable save or defensive play you've made up to this point in your soccer career?
MP: My most memorable save was my freshman year in the playoffs when I made an upper-90 save to keep the game tied at zero and force overtime (against Frisco Memorial).
SLM: For as much time as soccer takes up in your schedule, how do you like to spend your downtime away from the field?
MP: A lot of my downtime is focused on recovery and school work but I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and family, playing the piano and ukulele, and traveling.
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