PRINCETON — To say that Princeton Senior High School girls’ soccer coach Michelle Dye is dedicated to Tigers soccer is an understatement.
At Princeton’s soccer field Monday afternoon, Dye was less interested in talking about winning the Mountain State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Award than she was in talking about her players and even the boys’ team.
As she walked in front of the bleachers, Dye pointed toward a solitary figure in the sunlight, working on moves.
“That’s Austin Smith,” Dye said. “He’s going to the North-South All-Star game this Saturday.”
Smith comes over for a break on a surprisingly warm November afternoon. Dye gracefully steps backwards toward her children, so Smith can talk about his career. As he’s finishing, Dye speaks again.
“I think he and Jessica [Inman, a Princeton girls soccer player also participating in the game] will represent the school well,” Dye said.
When Smith heads back toward the field, Dye talks about her own career at Princeton. In 1995, girls sports were still in their infancy in Mercer County. To play soccer in high school, Dye had to play on the boys soccer team.
Dye didn’t keep the conversation on herself for very long, though.
She said she grew up at the height of the University of North Carolina women’s soccer dynasty and was a fan of perhaps the most famous women’s soccer player of all-time, Mia Hamm.
“Our team this year was just like UNC at that time,” Dye said. “We had 11 girls that we could count on to play everyday. A lot of times, in high school you have some girls that you have to try to hide. This year we had 11 girls that could play.”
Even Dye’s own soccer playing career circles back to her girls. Dye said after she left Princeton, she played soccer for a year at Wheeling Jesuit University before transferring back home to Concord.
Playing for the Cardinals and the Lady Lions was Dye’s first season playing with girls. Dye said that her only experience playing with girls was during the summer on travel teams.
That’s what made this year’s girls team so successful in Dye’s eyes. They spent so much time practicing soccer that they became better at the game and eventually became strong high school players as a result.
A graduate of Princeton in 1995, Dye can’t wait until the start of next season.
“I’m just so glad to see soccer taking off here,” Dye said.
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