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High flying Eagles

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River soccer ladies seem to be soaring

By Mike Forster

 

The Staunton River girls soccer team lost the most prolific scorer the program may ever see when Taylor Tester picked up her sheepskin in June.

Tester, who now plays for Mars Hill University (NC), set a pair of VHSL scoring records as she scorched opponents with her speed and nose for the goal.

But shed not a tear for this year’s Lady Eagles.  While Tester will be missed, we think there is enough talent to make a legitimate run at replicating last year’s 12-2-1 mark.

“It will be a team effort to replace Taylor,” said River Head Coach Jeff D’Aiuto.  “We’ll have to find goals in other places and play good defense.”

D’Aiuto should get significant help with both of those objectives from Emily Hillman, last season’s Blue Ridge Player of the Year.  “She’s a complete player and a workhorse,” said D’Aiuto, of the junior midfielder who is drawing the attention of D1 college programs.

She’s also extremely good in the classroom.

Hillman and Kim Martin will assume team captaincy this year.  Martin, entering her senior season, is well-known for her determination and hustle.  She’ll staff the middle of the defense along with junior Savannah Cowan, a hard tackler.  The two communicate well and will present a formidable front.

They’ll be flanked on the defensive line by Caylin Newman, a hard player who throws every bit of her 90 pounds into her defensive efforts, and Jessica Gamez, a smooth player who quietly gets the job done.

That quartet will line up in front of either Kendra Huntley or Jaelynn Tuck at goalkeeper.  Huntley spent a lot of time between the pipes last year, as a freshman.  Tuck returns after a year in Brazil to try and claim the lion’s share of playing time.  Both appear to be solid options.

Hillman will be joined in the midfield by senior Cecilia Carreon, who moves up from the defensive line and has shown a nice soft touch.

Also joining the fray will be Julia Bissier, who is new to the team but is already fitting in quite well with the Eagle schemes.  Natalia Carreon, a freshman who is a quick read and even quicker with her feet, should see significant time in the center mid slots.

Also in that mix is freshman Alissa Hash.  Small of stature, Hash has shown some nice moves as well as an excellent knowledge of the game.

On the outside of the midfield, look for junior Sydnee Ayers and freshman Abby Light to bring speed and strength to the fore.  Both have seen their hard work in the offseason pay off in terms of muscle and endurance.

Madison Maxey will serve as the focus of the attack as she moves up from an outside midfield into the striker role.  While Maxey doesn’t quite have the killer speed of Tester, she does have superb field vision and smarts which should pay off handsomely.

The talented tribe retains the same goal as last year:  to win the Conference 31 championship.

Last year, the Lady Eagles fell to Lord Botetourt in the conference championship in a heartbreaking 1-0 affair.

This year, they’d like nothing better than to sweep through the always-tough conference.  “We just need to get the girls playing together,” said D’Aiuto.  “It’s like a puzzle, getting all the pieces to fit.”

The pieces seemed to fit together quite nicely as his Eagles pecked apart Brookville in their season opener.  In that 6-0 win,  Hillman picked up a hat trick, Hash scored a pair and Maxey added a tally.