Mountain East Conference champion Concord fell in the first round of the NCAA Division II women’s soccer tournament to West Chester, but West Virginia ties to the tournament didn’t end there.
Flagler College, located in St. Augustine, Florida, picked up a 2-1 win over Lincoln Memorial on Nov. 24, setting up a third-round showdown Friday with Wingate with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.
Helping spearhead that Flagler team — sitting at 21-0-1 and with a shiny No. 1 seed — is sophomore defender Sara Carr, a former standout and two-time state champion at Charleston Catholic.
Carr was a physically dominant midfielder for the Irish, picking up All-State nods in each of her four years. She was also a state champion in the 50-meter freestyle twice in swimming.
So how did a Kanawha Valley kid end up on a Saints team squarely in the hunt for a national championship?
“I vacationed in St. Augustine and fell in love with the town and the culture,” Carr said. “It’s awesome.”
Carr may be a long way from home, but she’s doing the same things she did in the Valley on the pitch. She leads the Saints in minutes played and picked up a first-team nod on the All-Southeast Region team, making her eligible for All-American honors when those come later in the year.
Under coach Amy Mullen at Catholic, Carr played mostly in the midfield with the ability to move to the front or back of the attack, depending on game situation. The Saints depend upon Carr solely as a defender.
“It was a little adjustment,” Carr said. “I felt like in high school, I liked to get in the attack a little bit, but I’ve always felt more confident in a defensive role. I guess that’s what grabbed the coaches’ attention when they saw me in a tournament. I still go up sometimes in the attack on corners and free kicks, but I’m pretty defensive. I don’t step up as much as I used to.”
Whatever Carr’s role is, it has been working as one part of a well-oiled machine that has yet to be beaten this season. Flagler’s roster is a melting pot with eight international players representing five countries (Spain, Germany, Sweden, Paraguay and Mexico) as well as American players from seven states (Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Maryland and North Carolina).
Yet according to Carr, the bond developed from individuals spanning the globe on a small campus and within the structure of a team has been the squad’s driving force this year.
“Honestly our team chemistry — even last year it was good, but this year it is on another level,” Carr said. “We’re all really good friends on and off the field. We like to have fun, but when it’s time to flip the switch and get serious, we can do that. We practice every day, we have weights in the morning — we are a small school, so a lot of us are in all of the same classes. Plus the talent is awesome. There are no weak spots.”
Carr obviously is used to winning championships, but a collegiate title would be yet another level of success.
“All of our games this season, the motto is taking it 45 minutes at a time and kind of hitting the reset button before each and every game to focus on the next one,” Carr said. “Our coach always says, ‘Take pressure in and put focus out,’ and that’s what every one is taking away this year.”
She is the third among four standout athletic siblings. Older brother Nate and sister Morgan both swam at West Virginia University and younger sister Lindsay was a first-team All-State soccer player for the second straight year at Catholic.
In fact, Lindsay Carr picked up her first state championship in Beckley in November as the Irish earned the program’s first state championship in four years after three consecutive runner-up finishes. Sara Carr played on two of those runner-up teams and admitted she was glued to a streaming platform as her sister and alma mater battled Oak Glen in the Class AA-A championship game.
“I was so excited,” Carr said. “I called Amy [Mullen] right after the game, she deserved that more than anything. I watched the whole game. They looked good.”