In multiple ways, the Clarke County girls’ soccer team hopes that the 2023 season will bring the program the type of joy it experienced in 2021.
Two years ago, the Eagles capped a 13-0 season by defeating Radford to win the Class 2 title, their first state championship since 2007.
Last year, it seemed like Clarke County was headed for a repeat, as a veteran Eagles team won their first 20 games to extend their winning streak to 33. But then Clarke County lost to Luray in the Region 2B title game after beating the Bulldogs twice in the regular season by an 11-1 aggregate and fell to Poquoson in the Class 2 state quarterfinals. The Eagles beat the Islanders 4-0 in the 2021 state semifinals.
That state quarterfinal game turned out to be last for head coach Jon Cousins, who took over the Clarke County program in 2019. According to Clarke County Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Bishop, Cousins’ employment with the Eagles ended due to his behavior at the state quarterfinal game.
The Eagles are now led by Ray Hawkins, who was the head coach at Woodland High School near Charleston, S.C., for 12 of the past 13 years. He takes over a team that’s not only bursting with talent from the 2022 team, but also features the return of another star player after a one-year absence. Clarke County is already off to a strong start, beating Bull Run District foe Page County 10-0 in the season opener on Monday.
Junior Madison Toone — who will be a center attacking midfielder this year — is back on the team after scoring an incredible 36 goals as a freshman in that condensed 2021 season, 20 more than anyone else in the area. The Virginia High School League did vote on All-State teams that year, but Toone was named the Region 2B and Bull Run District Player of the Year.
Clarke County lost three All-State players in wing Rebecca Camacho-Bruno, goalkeeper Emma Rogers and defender Hannah Wagner from the 2022 team, but the Eagles bring back three All-State players as well as three others who earned All-Region honors.
This group includes junior midfielders Campbell Neiman (First Team All-State, 19 goals, team-high 18 assists), Kelsey Elrod (Second Team All-State, team-high 26 goals, seven assists) and Olivia Morise (Second Team All-Region, 14 goals), senior midfielder Ella O’Donnell (five goals, eight assists) and junior forward Summer Toone (21 goals, nine assists), Madison’s twin sister. Elrod had five goals and two assists to lead the way against Page County.
The defense will be anchored by junior First Team All-State center back Lily Suling (five goals and two assists last season). Junior Avery Shinaberry takes over for Rogers in goal.
Bull Run District rival Luray will have to replace Region 2B and Bull Run District Player of the Year Emilee Weakley.
In the Class 4 Northwestern Distict, tournament champion Handley (16-3-1) and James Wood (16-3) each lost stellar players from last year, but both squads bring back a lot of talent, too. Millbrook (5-10-2) and Sherando (3-14) are each hoping to make a stronger push toward the top this year.
No matter which two teams qualify from the district for the Region 4C semifinals, the Dulles District qualifiers figure to be a handful as always.
In 2021, both James Wood and Handley were eliminated in the region tournament by eventual Class 4 state champion Dominion. In 2022, Broad Run beat Handley and Tuscarora defeated James Wood in the Region 4C semifinals, and Broad Run eventually beat Tuscarora in the Class 4 title game. This year, James Wood (1-1) has already suffered a 3-2 defeat to Heritage of the Dulles District. Loudoun County Public Schools has won every state title but one in Class 4/Group AA since 2008.
James Wood lost Olivia Walker (she played in 17 games at NCAA Division I Belmont in the fall) and Sidney Rathel, who combined for 47 goals and 36 assists last year.
The Colonels still have a duo who combined for more points than that last year. Junior midfielder McKenna Newcome — who has verbally committed to NCAA Division I Marshall University — had 21 goals and an area-best 22 assists in a season in which she was named Winchester Star, Region 4C and Class 4 Northwestern District Player of the Year and was selected to the Class 4 All-State Second Team. Sophomore forward Jolie Jenkins (First Team All-Region) had an area-best 30 goals and added 11 assists. She has three goals and three assists this season.
Sophomore midfielder Madison Shirley (Second Team All-District, two goals, four assists against Skyline) and junior midfielder Jasmine Hackman (missed last year with an injury; four goals, two assists this season) have added to Wood’s scoring punch early. Sophomore defensive midfielder Sloane Ferrebee (Second Team All-District) had seven assists last year.
On defense, James Wood returns senior center backs Brooke Geary (First Team All-Region) and Lydia Watson (First Team All-District). Taking over in goal is sophomore Jes Taylor, who had 13 saves against Heritage.
Handley — which is now led by former JV coach Nicole Hobson — also lost an NCAA Division I player in forward Mikayla Balio (New Jersey Institute of Technology). Balio is one of three graduated seniors who had double-digits goals or assists last year for the Judges. Senior All-District defender Ainsley Justice will not play this season because of a knee injury suffered in the Broad Run defeat last year.
Handley does bring back two of the region’s best players, though. Senior Lauren Mason (nine goals, nine assists) was honored for defense last year but can play anywhere on the field, including goalkeeper. Handley’s goalkeeper situation is as strong as it gets though with senior Emma Westfall, another All-Region First Team pick who had 10 shutouts and a goals against average of 1.29 last year. The Judges also have sophomore midfielder Emeryce Worrell, a Second Team All-District pick who had eight goals last year.
Millbrook (1-1 this season) returns four All-District selections.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Arthur (Second Team) led the Pioneers with 10 goals last year and had a goal and two assists in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over Skyline. Abby Rodriguez (Honorable Mention) had a goal and assist, Maddy Haines had two goals and sophomore Alexis Brookshire had two assists in that game. The Pioneers will also be led by Honorable Mention selections Molly Ludwig, a sophomore, and junior goalkeeper Skylar Decker (four shutouts, 2.69 GAA last year).
Sherando brings back two All-District selections in forwards Ella Sampsell, a junior First Team pick who had a team-high nine goals last year, and sophomore Sophia Straightiff (Honorable Mention).
The following is a glance at each team:
Coach: Ray Hawkins, first season.
Last year: 20-2 (14-0 Bull Run District); Bull Run District champions; lost to Poquoson in Class 2 state quarterfinals.
Key losses: Hannah Wagner, Emma Rogers, Abby Rogers, Rebecca Camacho-Bruno, Maya Marasco.
Key returnees: Madison Toone, Jr., M (played as a freshman); Summer Toone, Jr., F; Kelsey Elrod, Jr., M; Campbell Neiman, Jr., M; Lily Suling, Jr., D; Ella O’Donnell, Sr., M; Audrey Price (5 goals, 4 assists), Sr., M; Olivia Morise, Jr., M; Avery Shinaberry, Jr., GK; Sidney Shinaberry, Jr., D; Bailey Mayo, Sr., D.
Key newcomers: Morgan Walker, So., D; Kyleigh Goforth, So., D.
Hawkins’ outlook: “We want and should compete for the Bull Rull District title this year, and the region [title]. If the team stays healthy, hopefully, a lengthy playoff push is definitely possible. We should see high-goal tallies from Kelsey Elrod and Madison and Summer Toone. Campbell Neiman and Lily Suling will produce many scoring chances from set pieces and Campbell’s speed of play, which is impressive. She makes great decisions on the ball and will be a key leader this season. Ella O’Donnell and Audrey Price should have stellar seasons at midfield. Work ethic-wise, Avery and Sidney Shinaberry will improve and be key starters for the season. Younger players Morgan Walker and Kyleigh Goforth should see significant minutes and make solid contributions to the back line. And once Bailey Mayo is healthy the defense should be solid in time for the start of the playoffs.”
Next game: Friday vs. Central
Coach: Nicole Hobson, first season.
Last year: 16-3-1 (10-1-1 Class 4 Northwestern District); district tournament champions; lost to Broad Run in Region 4C semifinals.
Key losses: Mikayla Balio, Julia Nerangis, Sammy Kern, Taylor Roark, Mikayla Freimuth, Ainsley Justice.
Key returnees: Payton Craig, Sr., D; Lauren Mason, Sr., all positions; Emma Westfall, Sr., GK; Alivia Ricci, Sr., F; Jailynn Rivera, Sr., F; Samantha Stevens, Sr., D; Bella Balio, Jr., M; Mia Kern, Jr., D; Madison Hobson, Jr., D; Emeryce Worrell, So., M.
Key newcomers: Brie Wilson, Jr., D; Emma Roark, So., F; Sofia Saucedo, So., D; Mia Hudson, Fr., F; Audrey DeArment, Fr., D; Stephanie Truban, Fr., M; Yamilet Lemus, Fr., F.
Hobson’s outlook: “I have high expectations for the season. I think we can be extremely competitive. Everyone is a contributor and the energy is positive. You can tell that many of our girls have put in significant work in the off-season. From seniors down to freshmen, we have so much talent, versatility and potential. It will be fun to see who rises as leaders. Anything can happen [in the district]. There is a lot of talent in our area. I do hope to fight our way right to the top. I know these players are ready to battle.”
Next game: Tuesday at Kettle Run
Coach: Donavan Russell, fourth season.
Last year: 16-3 (11-1 Class 4 Northwestern District); district regular-season champions; lost to Tuscarora in Region 4C semifinals.
Key losses: Olivia Walker, Sidney Rathel, Sami Stevens, Savannah Lewis.
Key returnees: McKenna Newcome, Jr., M; Lydia Watson, Sr., D; Jolie Jenkins, So., F; Brooke Geary, Sr., D; Sloane Ferrebee, So., M; Madison Shirley, So., M; Kelsey Gass, Jr., M; Maddie Heustis, Jr., D; Nayah Edwards, So., D; Grace Rivas Zelaya, So., F; Eva DeMattei, So., M.
Key newcomers: Allison Brant (missed 2022 season with injury), Sr., M; Jasmine Hackman (missed 2022 season with injury) Jr., M; Jes Taylor, So., GK; Anna Hester, Fr., M; Avery Wright, Fr., D.
Russell’s outlook: “I am excited to get the season rolling with this group of ladies. We lost great soccer players in our seniors from last season, but I feel the returning players have all showed up to preseason fit and have greatly improved their individual skills. We added two talented freshmen with Avery and Anna joining the team and they have meshed well with the group. Having Allison and Jasmine back from injury will add to our strong core group and help us compete in games. I’ve been impressed with the leadership of McKenna, Lydia and Brooke during preseason. I expect their drive and determination to be a focal point for our team throughout the season and into the tournaments. Jolie Jenkins is in good form and I expect her and Maddie Shirley, who is playing really well, to add to their goal totals from last year. Sloane, Maddie Heustis and Nayah are all stronger defensively this year and will play a big part for our team in the back. Eva, Kelsey and Grace will load out our offense and play their part in creating goal chances and scoring some as well. We are excited to have Jes Taylor in goal for the team this season. She will anchor our defense as a solid shot stopper. Our district is full of talented teams that have all improved over the offseason and I expect the regular-season title to be a close race. I believe that in the end this group of Colonels will be in the hunt.”
Next game: Friday at Kettle Run
Coach: Rob Douglas, fourth season.
Last year: 5-10-2 (3-7-2 Class 4 Northwestern District); lost to Fauquier in district first round.
Key losses: Amanda Decker, Riley Donelan, Amy Huggett, Alexis Walter, Lina Guerrero.
Key returnees: Carolina Arias, Sr., F/M; Maddy Haines, Sr., F/M; Abby Rodriguez, Sr., M/F; Izzy Saville, Sr., D; Kate Schwartzmiller, Sr., D/M; Maria Nith, Sr., D/M; Hannah Stephanites, Sr., D/M; Jamie Trieber, Sr., D; Skylar Decker, Jr., GK; Molly Deegan, Jr., M/F; Brianna Ramos, Jr., M/F; Mallory Upson, Jr., B/M; Hailey Williams, Jr., D; Kaitlyn Arthur, So., F; Molly Ludwig So., F/M; Alexis Brookshire, So., M/F.
Key newcomers: Tori Frye, Sr., D; Cameron Park, Jr., GK; Jamilee Festa, So., F; Morgan Holben, So., F; Ella Mannarino, Fr., D.
Douglas’ outlook: “This group had a great preseason. They have set high goals and expectations for themselves which is great to see. We have really good leadership from our upperclassmen. The team’s captains, Carolina Arias, Maddy Haines, Abby Rodriguez and Izzy Saville, along with the other seniors have been leaders on and off the field. Practices have been competitive so far. This is the fastest, most athletic team I have coached here at Millbrook. Players who have been showing [speed and athleticism] so far are Maria Nith, Carolina Arias, Maddy Haines, Hannah Stephanites and Ella Mannarino. We have players with great vision and good soccer IQ like Kate Schwartzmiller, Alexis Brookshire, Abby Rodriguez, Mallory Upson and Molly Deegan. Kaitlyn Arthur, Molly Ludwig and Bri Ramos have been doing very well creating opportunities and finishing in practice. We return Skylar Decker in goal. She continues to improve and put the work in before practice and outside of practice and it has shown. The district is always tough. We will get better with each training and take each game one by one. We look to be our best each night and through the [district] tournament. Those things should make for a good season.”
Next game: Friday at Fauquier
Coach: Stacey Macoff, second season.
Last year: 3-14 (3-9 Class 4 Northwestern District); lost to Kettle Run in district first round.
Key losses: Elise Buonocore, Brigid Campbell, Carson Foltz, Kelsey Johnson.
Key returnees: Delaney Grigsby, Sr., D; Anna Hill, Jr., F; Hailey Malinowski, Jr., M; Ella Sampsell, Jr., F; Avery Thomas, Jr., M; Morgan Catalano, So., GK; Mckenna Hardy, So., D; Sophia Straightiff, So., F; Maggie Tenney, So., D.
Key newcomers: Alba Amor Lopez, Jr., M; Makenna Blair, Jr., M; Joyce Mpanya, Jr., M; Maddy Sluss, Jr., F; Ella Guntang, So., M; Rhys Neff, So., GK; Sienna Forrer, Fr., M; Olivia Lee, Fr., M.
Macoff’s outlook: “We have a really young team this year with only one senior. Delaney Grigsby is a great leader for this young team. The girls have really been clicking in practice and trying to get to know each other on and off the field. We have some great additions to our team in every position. As for our returners, we have shifted some of our midfielders around and they are really taking to the changes. We expect our girls will rise to the challenge of a very competitive district, to perform at a high level, and to finish more opportunities this year.”
Next game: Monday at Loudoun County
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