Senior helps lead Bulldogs into regional semifinal

DIXON – Julia Phillips is more than just Carter’s little sister.

Sure, the Dixon High soccer senior said she looks up to her brother, but Julia also has embraced her own identity while being one the leaders for the Bulldogs, who are two wins shy of a state final berth.

“A lot of people say we play the same way, and when I was younger, sometimes the pressure would get to me,” the 18-year-old Phillips said. “But since I got to high school, it hasn’t been bad. I do want to be as good as he was, though.”

Carter, 20, was a two-time all-state player at Dixon. He just completed his sophomore year at UNC-Asheville, where he also plays soccer.

Big bro attended his sister’s game Tuesday when she recorded 2 goals in an 8-0 win over N.C. School of Science & Math that advanced top-seeded Dixon (22-2-1) into Friday’s NCHSAA 2-A East Regional semifinal home match against fourth-seeded Carrboro (16-5).

But since Carter graduated high school, it’s been little sister’s turn to shine at Dixon. And Julia certainly has been a key cog for the Bulldogs, both as an all-area defender and recently as a forward.

“I think Julia has tried to be her own person. Honestly, I don’t think my play at Dixon has really fazed her,” Carter said. “Maybe it did for a little bit when she was younger, but now she’s grown into her own player.”

Carter was the first to try soccer when he was “probably 4 or 5,” mother Kelly said. Julia also liked the sport, and watched her brother play.

“I used to go to his soccer games and there is a video of me when I first started kicking a ball where I used to trip over,” Julia said with a laugh. “It’s pretty cute.”

Julia also tried her hands at volleyball and basketball, but realized soccer was her sport. Kelly was a gymnast and father, Michael, played baseball. Julia continued rooting on Carter as she developed her skills on the pitch.

“I remember Carter and Chris Brown being the stars,” she said. “They worked so well together. When Carter got the ball, he took over the field. He was definitely someone you could look up to.”

But so is Julia, Carter said.

“I’ve been impressed with how composed she is,” he said. “She’s a smart player who is aggressive and she has a good touch on the ball. Julia is great at distributing and making plays.”

Coach Josh King added that while both Julia and Carter are “wonderful kids” and good players who “both see the field well,” they are different players. Julia has usually been a defender, but has moved to forward, while Carter was a forward in high school, but now is a defender at UNCA.

King also said the two Carter children are different people.

“Carter will talk a little bit more and Julia is quieter," he said.

What does Julia think?

“Carter is definitely more technical than I am,” she said. “But I think I’m more aggressive.”

Julia, however, quickly said Carter was still the best player in the family.

And that’s just fine with her. Julia isn’t trying to be the next Carter Phillips. She said she wants to be the best Julia Phillips she can be.

Kelly agreed.

“Julia is very driven in everything she does,” she said. “She is a very focused and dedicated kid. She’s always been that way in the classroom and in sports. She does her best, regardless.”

Julia doesn’t just standout in soccer.

She is in a position to graduate as Valedictorian with a 4.99 grade point average. She’s been her class’s top-ranked student the last three years.

Julia wants to attend North Carolina-Chapel Hill and then attend pharmacy school.

“I enjoy science,” Julia said. “I enjoy learning about drugs and how they affect the body.”

Julia has certainly affected the Bulldogs in a positive way since her move about a month ago from the back line to the top, King said. Nine of Phillips’ 10 goals have come since April 17.

“Julia has changed the dynamic of our team,” King said. “We wanted to get more speed up top. She’s made us a better team.”

Phillips said the adjustment was challenging because it required her to get better in shape and improve her technical skills. She added that she’s stayed after practice to get extra work in and that senior teammates such as Brittany Silance and Hailey Russell have encouraged her.

Phillips just hopes to continue playing her new position for a few more games.

“It hasn’t set in yet that I’m a senior,” she said. “My freshman season felt like forever, but this soccer season has gone by so quick.”

Chris Miller can be contacted via email at chris.miller@jdnews.com or by calling 910-219-8472. Follow him on twitter @jdnsports.