Being a starting underclassman on a state championship contender can be a daunting task for many prep athletes, but Renee Lyles has found her place on the St. Pius X girls’ soccer team.

The sophomore forward has been the Golden Lions’ leading scorer this season and helped lead the team to an undefeated mark in Region 8AAAA play. Her offensive highlights this season include two goals in St. Pius’ 4-0 road victory against rival Marist March 29 and five goals at Oconee County in a 7-0 region win March 26. Lyles also scored two goals in the Golden Lions’ 4-0 region home victory against McIntosh March 22 and two more in another region win, this time during a 3-0 victory at North Oconee March 15.

“She is a great team player with plenty of positive to all of her teammates,” St. Pius head coach Sara Schmitt said. “Renee really works hard in every practice and is so coachable.”

The Golden Lions have won nine overall contests through April 10 and secured the top seed out of the region heading into the state playoffs. St. Pius X reached the Class AAAA state finals last season and has primed itself for another long postseason run.

“We’re clicking and working really hard as a team,” Lyles said. “Everyone has played well with each other. I think we’re looking good and need to stay focused for the playoffs.”

Lyles has taken advantage of her opportunity as a first-year starter with the Golden Lions.

“I’m a forward, so it’s in my mindset that I should be scoring for the team.” she said. “It’s been good that I’ve been able to finish. I’ve just worked hard and tried to score as many goals as I can for the team. Our coaches give us a scouting report (on each opponent), but it’s more about us as players preparing together and talking about what we’re trying to improve on for the next game.”

Lyles began attending St. Pius in the ninth grade, but was ineligible for the 2018 season due to playing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Lyles will now play in the Elite Club National League, and that change has allowed her to join the Golden Lions for the 2019 campaign.

“It’s been a fun transition and I’ve always wanted to play soccer for Pius,” she said. “My teammates have been supportive (and) the upperclassmen have been inclusive. No one is afraid to talk or contribute to the team. I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone and practicing after school.”

Lyles began playing soccer when she was 3 years old, alongside her older sister Lauren, who also attended St. Pius and is currently a student at Georgia College & State University.

“I’ve always enjoyed the sport,” Lyles said. “I love competing everyday and trying to improve myself. I like taking tips from my coaches and trying to do my best every time I take the field.”

Lyles lists U.S. Women’s National Team members Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh in addition to FC Barcelona and Argentina national team player Lionel Messi as her favorite athletes.

Lyles is a member of the STAND Club, whose mission is to educate and promote an awareness of tragedies occurring in the world where genocide occurs. She’s also in the Spanish Club at St. Pius. Lyles enjoys playing basketball and tennis with her sister and parents, Bob and Cindy. Academically, Lyles holds a 3.8 grade point average and lists math as her favorite subject. She said she may pursue a career in physical therapy or nursing.

The Golden Lions await their first-round opponent in the state playoffs, which will start April 25.

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