Following the 2018 season, the Adairsville girls soccer program lost the county’s top forward in Emily Collum, midfielder in Gillian Johnson and defender in Molly Carter to graduation.
Sure, the Tigers returned an incredible goalkeeper and some young, talented pieces, but 2019 was set up to be a rebuilding year. Adairsville proved everyone wrong, finishing 11-5-1, placing second in Region 6-AAA and holding its own with Lumpkin County in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament.
Elsewhere in Bartow County, Cartersville also wound up runner-up in Region 5-AAAA. The Canes dropped a heartbreaker to LaGrange in a de facto region championship game and fell to Oconee County in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
After reaching the Class 5A state tourney in 2018, Cass ran into a veteran bunch of teams in Region 7-AAAAA. A couple of one-goal home defeats kept the Colonels from returning to the postseason this year, despite a stellar senior group of their own.
Woodland, meanwhile, worked through some growing pains this spring, as the Wildcats broke in a new coach.
Player of the Year: Cat Wheeler, Adairsville sophomore
When Collum graduated, it was fair to wonder, where would the goals come from for Adairsville? The answer came in the form of a dynamic forward named Cat Wheeler who did something even Collum didn’t manage in her illustrious career, scoring 28 goals as a sophomore to set the program’s record for a 10th-grader. It’s virtually impossible to score an average of 1.75 goals per game as a fluke, but to be clear, Wheeler has the attributes needed to follow up her breakout campaign with two more stellar seasons. She can beat players with her strength or her speed. Wheeler had a Stephen Curry-type influence on defenses, drawing attention to allow her teammates to thrive. Her wonder goal against Lumpkin County, when she wasn’t even fully healthy, showcased her massive potential.
Abbey Craig, Cartersville freshman — There are plenty of outstanding young players in the county, and Craig had a season comparable to even the best of them. As a freshman, she led the Canes in minutes played. Her 10 assists were also tops on the team, while she added five goals en route to all-region honors. With two top-notch forwards (more on them later) returning, Craig’s ability to control the game as a center midfielder will be key in 2020.
Kalyn Donegan, Cartersville junior — One of those stellar forwards, Donegan returns to the all-county team for a second straight season. Despite going through a scoring slump late in the year, she finished with 14 goals and five assists. Speed has always been Donegan’s greatest asset, and she showcases it often, blowing past defenders. If her shooting can return to the level at which she’s capable, there’s every chance she scores 20-plus goals as a senior.
Jordan Evans, Woodland senior — Evans improved upon her honorable-mention nod last season to garner all-county team selection following her senior year. A tireless worker on the field, Evans played a majority of her minutes in the Woodland midfield. However, she possesses the versatility to slot in for teammates throughout the lineup. First-year head coach Nicole Heiser said Evans was one of the team’s most vocal leaders.
Megan Hardin, Adairsville freshman — Most people wouldn’t think Hardin was a ninth-grader by the way she played her first season with the Tigers. Her ability to spray passes around out of midfield was one of the biggest factors in Adairsville’s surprising level of success this season. She has the tactical versatility to drop back and focus on defense when needed or maraud downfield to support the attack. She’ll likely be a mainstay on the all-county team for years.
Havyn Isaac, Adairsville senior — Clearly the top goalkeeper in the county this season, Isaac had a legitimate case to be named player of the year (or at least earn some kind of lifetime achievement award). A four-year starter, Isaac “won” 55 of the 75 matches she played in during her career. Players from Lumpkin County made a point to personally help console Isaac after that game. Her play commanded that kind of respect from teammates and coaches, too.
Devondria Johnson, Cartersville sophomore — Some coaches put their best athlete at forward, others in the midfield and even a few place them on defense. Cartersville coach Chad Murray fits into the final group, utilizing Johnson as a fullback. Her combination of being in the right position and making the right decision is a rare find at the high school level. With two years still to go, Johnson has the physical and mental tools to be a standout defender.
Sadye Johnson, Adairsville sophomore — With Isaac and DTN 2018-19 girls basketball player of the year Nakiyah Washington having graduated, Johnson might be the best all-around female athlete at Adairsville next year. She scored seven goals and chipped in with three assists this year after a wonderful freshman season. Johnson is at her best in the big moments, utilizing her unparalleled toughness and determination to make key plays.
Ellie McBride, Adairsville sophomore — Made from the new mold of fullbacks, McBride excelled in defense but also on offense. Her speed allows her to keep up with the opposition’s attack and allows her to start counterattacks, as well. McBride’s strong leg allowed her to send crossfield balls to her teammates and put instant pressure on the defense. With two more years left to improve, McBride should continue to develop into one of the best defensive players in the county.
Briana Ochoa, Cass senior — A major part of Cass’ veteran midfield, Ochoa made those around her better with her ability to make any pass and rarely get caught out of position. To say Ochoa played with a high motor would be a gross understatement. She ended her career with consecutive all-region honorable-mention selections. Despite being more involved in build up than end product, she finished her career with 10 goals and 15 assists.
Lupita Pineda, Cass senior — Almost everything said above for Ochoa also applies to Pineda. They truly had a perfect partnership as the Colonels central midfielders. Pineda also picked up honorable-mention recognition from the region, and both wrap up their careers with a second straight all-county nod. A player who balances playing aggressive and playing smart, Pineda finished her time with the Colonels with totals of 16 goals and 18 assists.
Madison Shook, Cass sophomore — Shook was named the most improved player for Cass in 2019, and she could be considered the second-most improved player in the county behind Wheeler. After being inserted into the lineup this season, Shook piled up 17 assists, including several off corner kicks, and even chipped in with three goals. If she continues to improve at such a rapid pace, which is possible given that she plays travel ball, Shook will be a star.
Micah Vance, Cartersville junior — Vance spent her sophomore season as an outside midfielder, showing flashes of her scoring potential with nine goals. After moving to the forward position opposite Donegan this season, Vance erupted to the tune of 24 goals and five assists. Needless to say, the move worked. If Vance puts together a senior season that’s anything like her junior campaign, there will be plenty of colleges looking to bring her aboard.
Logan Vermaas, Cass senior — The 2018 DTN Player of the Year capped an outstanding career with 21 goals and seven assists in her senior season. All told, the first-team all-region honoree knocked home 68 goals and tallied 28 assists in a Cass uniform. She will head to North Georgia as the Colonels all-time leading scorer and single-season record holder after racking up 28 goals as a junior. She’ll be virtually impossible to replace in 2020.
Grace Webb, Woodland junior — Webb finds herself on the all-county team for a second successive season. Her four-goal haul against rival Cartersville would be enough to earn consideration by itself. That performance is one of the signs of her competitive spirit, others being her tenacity in the air and her confidence on the ball. Even when she wasn’t finding the back of the net, Webb helped the Wildcats attack every game either at forward or in midfield.
Aleah Abernathy, Adairsville senior; Kendyl Anderson, Cartersville sophomore; Linet Chege, Cartersville junior; Millie Conduff, Adairsville junior; Hannah DeBoard, Adairsville senior; Hailey Henson, Cass senior; Kiersten Iruegas, Woodland senior; Brittney Ochoa, Cass senior; Jocelyn Pineda, Cass senior; Leidi Toribio, Cass sophomore; and Janet Zazueta, Cartersville junior.