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When it comes to sustained excellence across all three county schools, it is hard to top girls soccer.
Jefferson Forest and Liberty are the only schools to win the Seminole District title. Ever.
Staunton River has been considered a first-tier district team, whether in the Seminole or in its current home, the Blue Ridge District.
So much for history. How does this year shape up?
By all indicators, this may be one of the best years for girls soccer. All three teams look very strong.
Unsurprisingly, the strongest appears to be Jefferson Forest, which won its 14th Seminole crown last year and also added a 12th district tournament title.
“We’re looking real strong,” assessed JF Head Coach Stan Golon. We share that assessment.
Start out with the Lady Cavs team captains: the Fantastic Five.
That group is headed up by Chelsea Hayes and Emilee McDaniel, a remarkable scoring threat duo. Both are fast and both have a nose for the net. More notably, both are known to give no quarter.
They’ll be complemented by fellow captain Courtney Zangrone, a shifty forward who is recovering from knee surgery. She’s remained a positive factor on the team, and should make a big contribution once she’s at full strength.
The fourth captain is Danielle Brittigan, who is a strong, stabilizing force on the defensive line.
Finally, there is Katherine Frank. Last year’s co-MVP for the Seminole District, Frank will direct things from the center-midfield position. From that slot she should team with ODP player Alyssa Mitchell to drive the engine of the beast.
Mitchell is only a sophomore. We’re looking for big things from her.
A couple other players to keep an eye out for include Callie White, a forward who seems put on this earth to score goals, and Anna Carter, who moves from the keeper position to join Brittigan in the middle of the defense.
Allie Gossen steps in between the pipes. The transfer from Indiana looks good already, making saves you don’t think should be made.
Lauren Nicholas can plug in successfully at either midfield or forward.
Jessica O’Bryant, Julie McNally and Emily Vance are all expected to help create that famed ring of steel that is the JF defense.
Golon will be running a 4-4-2 look, for the most part.
So far, things have gone his way. In the opener, his lasses blanked Cave Spring, 5-0, behind first-half goals from Hayes, Nicholas and Carter.
In the second half, Ashley Freeman and Cassidy Ratliff picked up their first varsity goals of their (young) careers.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks. This team has scads of talent. We suspect others will step up strongly. It’s just that there are so many of them.
“We’ve left port and we’re under sail,” said Cap’n Golon. “We’re in a good place with this group.”
Liberty also powerful
“I like what I’ve seen,” said Liberty Head Coach Jeff Steele of his team.
Regrettably, he hasn’t seen the full complement of players. Stephanie Miller has been lost to the season, which is a huge hit on the back line. Patty Hale and Kiley Bartholomew are nursing injured ACLs.
When your roster only bears 16 names, such factors can play a huge role.
Still, shed no tears for Steele and his bunch. They’ll be in the mix, as they are every year.
Once again, the Minettes will show a 4-4-2 look, for the most part.
Midfield seems to be where Liberty has the greatest wealth. Anna Messier and Maran Catalano, two of the team captains, should figure prominently in center midfield play
Also look for underclassmen Laura Garbarini and Bartholomew to make some noise.
On the flanks, Teresa Padgett and Kat Babbitt will be logging many miles in the Liberty scheme. Ginna Shea and Ashley Phillips are very viable options on the wings, but they’ll likely drop back to play fullback.
Shea is a presence at sweeper. Steele stated that he doesn’t consider what she does to be mere clears: They’re more like long passes.
Kara Harrison, another team captain, will plug in nicely at stopper, where she earned all-district honors last season. Look to her to win a lot of balls.
Joy Scruggs and Phillips should flank those two on defense.
Once Hale, the fourth captain, is up to speed, she’ll add an additional dimension to the Liberty defense.
Taylor Watts will be between the pipes. She’s put a lot of work into learning the position, and that is obvious.
Steele seems to relish the challenge of a new season. “We need to keep healthy,” he cited as his top concern. Other than that, he felt it imperative that the team define itself. “We have a lot of heart and speed on offense,” he said. “And even though we have nine seniors, we are going to have to define our identity.”
We feel that their identity, in the end, will include being quite competitive in the Seminole, with a chance to progress in regional play.
River takes another bite
Staunton River had a less-than-optimal first year in the Blue Ridge last year.
This year, the Eagles hope things will be different.
While River is always exciting on the attack, we see a lot of strength in its defense this year.
The team welcomes back Moira Guzi for her fourth year starting at goalkeeper. She’s reliable and smothering, all at once.
In front of Guzi, you’re likely to find Jewell McRoy, an all-district selection last year. She’ll tend to corner kicks and direct kicks because of her outstanding placement.
Eryn Campbell will tend to sweeper duties. We see her as a nifty little player who will help hold the Eagle defense together.
Chelsea Mundy and Brie Holdren are a couple of others who can plug in nicely on defense.
Lauren Green, a defender in the past, will move up to a holding midfield spot.
The rest of the slots will be on the attack.
Of course, look for Jodi Salyer to lead the scoring parade. An all-district first teamer her first two seasons, Salyer should continue her assault on Staunton River scoring records this year.
Rachel Kessler has been a reliable and sound player over the years. She heads into her senior-year campaign.
Calen Weaver is a new face on the team, having transferred from William Byrd. She’ll help to fortify the midfield.
Head Coach Kenneth Young has a team full of youth, with six sophomores and only four seniors. So, Young’s team is a young team.
Still, with a 4-5-1 look and plenty of speed, we look for the team to challenge in the Blue Ridge. From there, who knows?