Every team needs leaders who have experienced all the high and low moments that naturally come with high school sports.
Five seniors currently fill those roles on Dawson County’s varsity girls soccer team, including Emma Faircloth, the squad’s vocal and charismatic goalkeeper.
With this year’s iteration of the Lady Tigers more than doubling their win total from last season and working to make a run in the state playoffs, Faircloth has observed dramatic change — both in the team and in her own position.
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From spending much of last season constantly making saves to now having more time and space to use her leadership skills, Faircloth has been a critical cog in the team’s machine.
And she’s certainly enjoyed the ride.
“I’m very proud of [the team],” Faircloth said. “Being able to play with them and be successful makes me proud of them and of how hard we’ve been working to get this far.”
While Faircloth’s toughest tests still await — with Dawson playing three region heavyweights to close the regular season — she played a big role in a 1-0 win over a tough East Forsyth side that had soundly defeated the Lady Tigers in 2022.
But it was another revenge win that she said resulted in some of her favorite moments this season — a 9-1 drubbing of a Lakeview Academy team that had beaten Dawson 10-0 the previous season.
For Faircloth, that complete turnaround epitomized how far the team’s improvements have come.
“My favorite game moment was in the Lakeview game — the first goal that we scored,” Faircloth said. “Last year, the Lakeview game burned me hard. We were mercy ruled in the first half, so beating them as hard as we did this year was a huge success for me…because of how many shots I had to face last year.”
Steering the ship for this year's soccer success is head coach Chess Hamby — a person who Faircloth credits with helping develop both the team’s skills and their personality.
Through his balanced approach of fun and intensity, Hamby has carved himself out a space as both a successful and likable figure.
“Coach Hamby is probably one of my favorite coaches I’ve had,” Faircloth said. “He’s not a hard coach, but he does make sure we get things done and that we’re working together. He likes when we win, but he’s more about actually executing what we’ve been taught.”
Previously attending a private school in Stockbridge, Faircloth moved to Dawson County prior to her sophomore year, only for a torn ACL to force her to watch much of that season from the bench.
By the time her junior season came around, she was ready to put her skills to the test.
“Watching everybody was very hard for me because I wanted to be out there very, very bad,” Faircloth said. “Last year when we started playing again, I started working harder and trying to get back to what I was before and better. This year, having the skill that we do on this team, it’s been great to be able to play against that skill during practice and get better from them.”
As for the rest of the season and beyond, she has a clear message she wants the young team to receive.
“Keep your head up, calm down and make sure you stay with your head on your shoulders,” Faircloth said. “As soon as you start getting flustered, that’s what makes it harder for the rest of the team to stay together. As long as you keep yourself calm, that keeps your teammates calm.”
Faircloth and the Lady Tigers begin the most challenging stretch of their season tonight at home against White County — a high-scoring side vying for the Region 7-3A title.