Kiersten's contribution

Sun Valley senior converts kick heard 'round the county
Oct. 29, 2013 @ 04:05 PM

It's 9:45 on Monday night and Kiersten Peck is pulling into her driveway after scrimmaging against Belmont Abbey's soccer team with her Carolina Rapids travel club.
Peck is a year-round soccer player, and this time next year, the Sun Valley High senior will be playing on scholarship for Catawba College.
Over her last high school summer, Peck decided to try out for the football team and started kicking a football for the first time in her life.
She beat out a half-dozen guys for the place-kicking job.
"I've been kicking a soccer ball since I was 6," Peck said. "It's the same muscle memory. You just have to get under the football more to get it up in the air."
Peck was admittedly shaky at first. She missed two extra points and had a couple more blocked. But in the last seven games, she's been perfect on extra points and gone 3-for-3 on field goal tries.
Peck's high school football career took an unforgettable twist last Friday in Sun Valley's critical Southern Carolina Conference game at Weddington. That's where Peck etched her name into school history.
Wearing her "fuzzy felt gloves" that drew jokes from her teammates — "they were calling them mittens, but I don't use my hands" — Peck was already 2-for-2 on extra points when she ran onto the field for a 23-yard field goal attempt in overtime.
Peck lined up on the right hash and aimed for the right goal post, knowing the natural hook she's developed in soccer should pull it between the uprights.
"I looked up and it went through," Peck said. "What a relief."
Peck got a lot of head pats, high fives and shoulder slaps after the field goal gave her team a 25-22 lead, but it wasn't over.
The defense had to get a stop and they did when Keith Duncan pulled his 31-yard attempt wide left on fourth-and-goal from the 13.
"That's when we really celebrated," Peck said. "People were coming up to me saying 'I love you' and I'm saying 'thank you so much.' Like what are you supposed to say to that?"
Peck said it wasn't until later that she realized her kick has put the Spartans in a favorable position to go undefeated in conference play for the first time ever and win the program's first outright championship of any kind.
"I didn't know this game was going to dictate the way it would go but when I figured it out it made the moment even bigger," she said. "I'm happy for the team and for the guys. It's my first year and it's a big deal but it's not as big a deal as it is for the guys that have been in the program and were co-champions last year. But we still have two more games and anything can happen."

Confidence
Peck said she was "already close with most of the seniors on the team" because she's shared classrooms with them since elementary school.
It took longer to get to know some of the younger players.
"I think they were worried at first," she said. "Then I got more consistent and more guys were talking to me and starting to joke around with me. At fist it was kind of weird because I'm the only girl but that's when I really started to feel accepted."
Sun Valley senior linebacker Brian Teutonico, Union County's leading tackler (119), knew Peck had a strong leg from seeing her play soccer and was impressed with how she approached preseason practices.
"From the begpnning of the season I've had no problem with it," Teutonico said. "My mindset is best person for the job, male or female. ... She proved herself at the beginning of the season ahd she worked hard and deserved to have that spot."
Peck gained confidence by making a 37-yard field goal earlier in the year. She's made attempts from 40 yards in practice and considers that the edge of her range. "It's always a yard or two short from 40 yards or just barely makes it over," she said.
Teutonico was confident Peck would come through in overtime.
"I have faith in Kiersten," Teutonico said. "She's proven herself. I know she was going to get us the three points. I had no doubt in my mind. She's a really good kicker."

Acceptance
Somewhere along the way, Peck went from being a girl on the team to a member of the team.
She looks comfortable now.
Her colorful, quick-witted personality has come out.
"We do everything together but change," she said with a laugh.
With temperatures in the 30s last Friday, Peck wore two jackets and her soccer gloves that draw so much humor from teammates.
To keep her legs warm, she kicked into the net or bounced to the beat of her school band.
"It was nerve racking when our defense was on the field after we took the lead in overtime," Peck said. "I was jumping around all over the place."
Quite a contrast from moments earlier, when she relaxed herself for what has to be considered the most important kick in school history.
"I knew they would be coming at me but when I hurry that's when I mess up," Peck said. "I wasn't cold when I went out there. I took a lot of reps into the net. I just took a deep breath to calm the adrenaline running through me. I wasn't thinking about the pressure."
Peck didn't miss out on any of the post-game celebration, according to Teutonico.
"She celebrated with us on the field, and that's probably when we were the happiest was right after the game," Teutonico said. "We went in Weddington's visiting locker room but we weren't changing in there so she celebrated with us in there. We were all congratulating her because she made the game-winning field goal.
"When we were back at the school the celebration was basically over. When we were changing it wasn't like she was missing out on anything. She got the whole experience."
She's earned it.