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With an expanded state tournament field and numerous talented players, Historic Triangle teams should be feeling good about their prospects for postseason play.
The Virginia High School League has expanded state soccer tournaments to eight teams, which is up from four teams last season.
This is good news for teams like Lafayette, Jamestown, Tabb and York, all of whom made the regional semifinals last season, coming within a game of making their respective state tournaments.
If local schools can reach that same postseason level again this year, they will at least have a state tournament appearance to show for it.
Locally, Tabb and Jamestown appear to be the early Bay Rivers District favorites. The Tigers return All-State forward Leah Tyson and a number of other talented seniors, while Jamestown returns some talented seniors mixed with a younger roster than last season.
A third team likely to compete for the district title is York, which returns a pair of All-State players in Madison Van Dyke and Michelle Shin. With senior leadership and depth, the Falcons could challenge for the top spot.
Warhill also returns a strong lineup that includes defending Conference 25 Player of the Year Shaye Doherty. The Lions, like York, could potentially rise toward the top of the district standings and challenge top teams.
Grafton is a young but talented roster that should remain competitive. The same can be said for Lafayette, which lost a handful of seniors who earned postseason honors.
Bruton will be improved over last year’s one-win season, but the Panthers still might be overwhelmed in what looks to be a very talented Bay Rivers District.
Below are previews for every Historic Triangle girls soccer team playing in the Bay Rivers District:
Head Coach: Will Spear
2016 Classification: 2A Conference 33
2015 Record: 1-13-0
Players to Watch: Tori McCurdy (senior, M), Aaliyah Bartlett (senior, F), Kamree Barker (sophomore, M), Naya Samuels (senior, M)
Season Outlook: Coming off a 1-13-0 record in 2015, things seem to be looking up for Bruton’s girls soccer team. The Panthers were young and inexperienced last year, but those problems are in the process of being corrected with strong seniors like McCurdy, Bartlett and Samuels leading an improved offense. The combination of those three players will give Bruton a more potent attack and will allow the Panthers to remain more competitive. The Panthers will also receive a lift from Barker, a dynamic two-way midfielder who brings added offense and defense to the Panthers. A key newcomer for Bruton is freshman midfielder Erin Lundy, whom Spear expects to have a major influence early. While the Panthers should see more success against other Group 2A opponents in Conference 33 play, they will likely struggle in Bay Rivers District games. Despite potential regular season struggles, Bruton will almost certainly be improved from last season.
Head Coach: Galen Small
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 19
2015 Record: 9-6-0
Players to Watch: Malia Valentine (junior, F), Sophia Beaudoin (senior, M), Julia Larsen (junior, D), Sabrina Matos (senior, M)
Season Outlook: The Clippers have one of the youngest rosters in the Bay Rivers District with four seniors, but Grafton is still talented enough to remain competitive in the Bay Rivers District. Grafton, which suffered a 2-0 loss to Tabb in the Conference 19 semifinals, returns a pair of experienced midfielders in Beaudoin and Matos. Also returning is Valentine, who is coming off a first-team All-Conference performance as a sophomore. Valentine will be one of the leading producers for the Clippers and will be integral in pacing the offense. Defensively, Larsen, also a first-team All-Conference selection last year, will set the tone for what should be a well-rounded back line. Grafton likely won’t be in a position to win the district, but the Clippers should be capable of playing most teams tough.
Head Coach: Michelle and Kevin Dawson
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 19
2015 Record: 9-5-4
Players to Watch: Juliette Sim (senior, GK), Maddie Clevinger (senior, D), Maura Hyland (senior, D), Anya Keurajian (sophomore, F)
Season Outlook: Jamestown’s postseason run ended with a double overtime loss to Midlothian in the Group 4A South semifinal round, leaving the Eagles just shy of reaching the state tournament. The Eagles, who tied with Tabb for the Bay Rivers District title last year, have to replace some valuable players, including forward Morgan Connell, as well as midfielders Shannon Fitzgerald and Peyton Helbert. With just three seniors on this year’s team, the Eagles will have one of the younger rosters in the Bay Rivers District. Sim, a first-team All-Region goalkeeper last year, will resume her role as Jamestown’s proverbial brick wall in the net. Also returning is Clevinger, who earned first-team All-Region honors last year. When paired with Hyland, a senior, the defensive third of the field will be the most experienced for the Eagles. Keurajian, who is coming off a successful freshman season, will give the Eagles a good go-to scoring threat up front. A well-rounded roster, albeit a young one, should put Jamestown in a position to make a deep postseason run.
Head Coach: Derek D’Arcy
2016 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2015 Record: 12-4-0
Players to Watch: Taylor Gubler (freshman, M), Maya Canaday (sophomore, M), Ryan Long (sophomore, D), Iliana Tua (sophomore, D)
Season Outlook: After a tough loss to Brentsville District in the Group 3A East semifinals last season, much has changed for the Rams. Not only do the Rams have a new head coach in D’Arcy, but they are also replacing three first-team All-Conference seniors, Peyton Kilgore, Jasmine Bunker and Mackenzie Wilson. D’Arcy said the Rams will be leaning on a handful of underclassmen this season, including some freshmen like Gubler. D’Arcy praised the play of his sophomores Canaday, Long and Tua, saying he expects them to have breakout seasons. A first-time high school girls coach, D’Arcy said he is trying to instill the fundamentals of soccer to his players and hopes for them to develop as the season progresses. With so much inexperience on the roster, Lafayette could be a wild card when it comes to district play.
Head Coach: Kelle Shiflett
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2015 Record: 12-4-1
Players to Watch: Leah Tyson (senior, F), Lakaiah Robinson (senior, D), Madalynn Grounds (senior, M), Natalie Stratton (junior, D)
Season Outlook: Led by first-team All-State forward Tyson, who scored 22 goals last season, Tabb looks to be a formidable foe in the Bay Rivers District. Tyson is one of the best all-around talents in the Historic Triangle and should keep the Tigers competitive in most games. Tabb returns six talented seniors, many of whom earned postseason honors of some kind last season. Robinson and Grounds are two such players, both earning second-team All-State honors during their junior seasons. The Tigers also return Stratton, an All-Conference defender last season who will act as the center piece to a defense that also expects contributions from seniors Ali Brewer and Kelsey Kercey. After splitting the Bay Rivers District title with Jamestown last season, the Tigers could potentially win the regular season crown outright. Also, with so much depth and experience returning for Tabb, it seems likely the Tigers are primed for a potentially deep postseason run.
Head Coach: David Dick
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 25
2015 Record: 10-6-0
Players to Watch: Shaye Doherty (senior, M), Kayla Cooke (senior, F), Kirstyn Aldridge (junior, M), Aaliyah Tyler (senior, GK)
Season Outlook: After a 10-6-0 performance last season, Warhill will begin this year with a loaded roster and a new head coach. The biggest returning piece for the Lions is Doherty, who took home Conference 25 Player of the Year honors last season after logging 18 goals and 14 assists. Despite being a midfielder, Doherty is going to be one of the main players to make this offense tick. That’s not to suggest she is Warhill’s only scoring threat. The Lions also bring back Cooke and Aldridge, both of whom are capable goal scorers in their own right. A key returning player from last year’s team is Tyler, who has a full year of starting goalkeeper experience under her belt. Other contributors such as Tori Espinosa, Megan Cretney and Isis Betancourt should make Warhill very competitive in Bay Rivers District play.
Head Coach: Tom Finley
2016 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2015 Record: 10-5-5
Players to Watch: Madison Van Dyke (junior, F), Michelle Shin (senior, M), Hanna Elford (senior, M), Moira Thomson (freshman, M)
Season Outlook: If all the pieces come together properly, York could have a roster talented enough to challenge for a state tournament berth. The biggest loss from last year’s team that fell to John Champe in the Group 3A East semifinal round, is defender Madison Dillard. Luckily for York, the Falcons return quality players who earned postseason honors last year. The biggest returner is Van Dyke, a Longwood University commit who was named a first-team All-State forward last year after scoring a team-high 25 points and adding 15 assists. Shin, a senior who earned second-team All-State honors last year, will pair with Elford and Thomson to comprise one of the most talented midfields in the Bay Rivers District. Finley said integrating new players like Thomson with veterans will be one of the keys to success this season. With six returning seniors on this year’s team, including some talented youngsters, Finley said he hopes to reach the state tournament this season.