Martha Thomas drills the ball past VCU opponent. Photo by Pooja Pasupula.

In any sport and on every team, there are firsts and there are lasts and the seniors of Charlotte Women’s Soccer are experiencing some of these this fall. There is always a first game, a first goal and a first time playing a certain position or against a particular team. There will be last goals, last games and a last time playing with teammates that have become part of a family.

Kyla Clark, Shealyn Dwyer, Virginia Lingo and Martha Thomas are doing what they can to make this last year at Charlotte the best they have ever seen.

Having been Conference USA Champions last season and dropping the first round game of the NCAA Tournament, the girls had high hopes for their team this year.

“It’s definitely weird to be a senior, you know people say it will fly by and it definitely does and I can’t believe how fast it’s come. I’m really proud of where I am right now, I think our team is moving in a really good direction, so I’m really excited for my senior year to go out even better than last year,” Thomas said.

Thomas, an All-American candidate and currently among the top 10 finalists for the annual Senior CLASS Award, began the year as the Preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year. She was the fourth player in the conference to be named to National Team of the Week this season by, this being the fourth time in her career including an honorable mention giving her the most of such honors of any individual in program history.

Thomas has scored 10 goals so far this season among her 43 career goals so far, scoring two goals in the conference opener against Marshall to bring her to 41 goals. This made her the player with the most career goals in Charlotte women’s soccer history, surpassing Whitney Weinraub’s 39 goals.

“I would honestly say it’s one of those things that’s just happened. It’s not something that when I came to this program I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna break records and score goals.’ I was never really a goal scorer before I came here to be completely honest with you. It’s just been a result of how much passion I have for the game and it’s just come in a way, naturally, and I haven’t had to force anything. I don’t go game by game saying, ‘ I need to score I need to score.’ My teammates and we as a team create a lot of opportunities and I’ve just been on the end of them,” Thomas said.

One of the teammates that helps to create these opportunities is Virginia Lingo, who has an extreme passion, similar to Thomas, for what she does on and off the field here at Charlotte.

Virginia Lingo dribbles the ball. Photo by Katelynn Pennington

Having taken five of her 15 career shots on goal so far this season, Lingo acquired her first official career goal this season against Gardner-Webb last month, with an assist from her fellow senior teammate Martha Thomas.

Much like the rest of the Charlotte women’s soccer program, Lingo holds herself and her teammates to an even higher standard this year, hoping to be repeat conference champions and move further within the NCAA Tournament.

“I think that we need to think about the goal in mind every time we get out there and just try to do better and know that if we’re messing up, we have higher expectations of us this year,” Lingo said.

A third senior on the Charlotte Women’s soccer squad is Shealyn Dwyer, who in addition to her teammates is working her hardest to help lead her team to another Conference USA championship win.

Having played in the Conference USA championship win against FAU and the first round match of the NCAA tournament against Duke, Dwyer couldn’t be hungrier for her team for another championship title and to advance further in the NCAA tournament as well.

“It’s going to be a challenge to defend our title, but that’s the goal. Back to back trophies, holding those up. That’s gonna be awesome and we’re striving toward that every day,” Dwyer said.

In order to accomplish such feats as the Charlotte Women’s Soccer program has, a team has to be united and has to work hard to hold each other to a higher standard than other teams do. These young women are working tirelessly together to improve, to progress forward this season, make moves to better the program by getting further in the NCAA tournament and possibly even win a national title.

“This year is different from other seasons, because I feel like we’re more of a family and I feel like that camaraderie really helps us win and lose together, work harder and practice harder together just to get back to the championship,” Dwyer said.

It is evident throughout games and after the final minutes have run off of the clock that the 49ers are a family that supports each other in a big way, win or lose.

Last, but certainly not least among the senior squad is Kyla Clark.

Kyla Clark celebrates her first goal with her teammates. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Doubling as both a defender and a forward, Clark accompanied Lingo in scoring her first career goal this season against VCU within the fifth minute of play off of yet another assist by her co-captain Martha Thomas.

“For the past three years, I found myself playing in more defensive roles and this year, I’ve kind of been playing in more attacking roles and so it was exciting to actually get a goal and be a part of the attack,” Kyla Clark said.

Clark agrees that the team has grown closer and this has helped them strive toward reaching their goals of winning regular season, another conference championship and again get the program into the NCAA tournament and continue to prove the program’s dominance.

“We’re just trying to hold everyone accountable, making sure everyone’s working hard together, keeping the team close really helps. And we’re not just doing it for the championship, we’re trying to leave a culture that lasts beyond from when we were here and set the team up for success in the future,” Clark said.

These hardworking seniors will be honored Oct. 19 for Senior Night at Transamerica Field. The 49ers take on North Texas at 7 p.m.