Girls Soccer Season Previews

The soccer season is here! For the girls, that means another clean slate for each team. Here’s a team-by-team look (alphabetical) on what the outlook is for each as we open 2022!

BANKS COUNTY

2021 Record: 5-9; Region 3rd; 2A State Sweet 16
Head Coach: Maranda Parks
Key Departures: N/A
Key Players Returning: Jenna Yonce
Strengths: At keeper, Yonce was solid for the Lady Leopards. She is the obvious strength of this team coming in.
Expectations: To compete for a playoff spot out of Region 8-AA. That means being one of the top 4 in a 5-team region. Last year’s Sweet 16 run is hopefully not a flash in the pan. Banks will look to build on last year’s momentum.

COMMERCE

2021 Record: 18-1; Region Champions; 1A Public State Sweet 16; #1 State Ranking
Head Coach: Scott Tolbert
Key Departures: Abby Tolbert, Carson Hawkins, Hannah English, Maggie Mullis
Key Players Returning: Ivy Tolbert, Chloe Diaz, Kate Hill, Rachel English, Kylee Taylor, Kendall Peters, Ermay Vasquez, Bailee Reece, Karis Allen, Rylee Allen, Sarah English, Anna Taylor, Arely Ledesma
Strengths: “High quality players with high quality character,” states Tolbert. 
Expectations: “A very deep run in the playoffs,” says Tolbert.

DAWSON COUNTY

2021 Record: 1-15-1; Region 5th
Head Coach: Chess Hamby
Key Departures: Annie Gloeckner, Raima Faille, Molly Muenchen, Zoe Hill
Key Players Returning: Kenna Lebaron, Megan Dixon, Paola Ruiz, Emma Faircloth, Melodie Martin, Rielyn Talley, Izzy Sheer, Elena Nelson (transfer from Pickens). “We have a small group of seniors, but they have been great leaders for us,” says Hamby of Lebaron, Dixon, and Ruiz. “We are getting Faircloth back from injury this year and she will be in goal for us. We also have a solid group of freshmen coming in that we are hoping can step in and give us valuable minutes: Martin, Talley, Sheer, and Nelson.”
Strengths: “So far our strength has been our attitude and work ethic,” states Hamby. “I have been very pleased with the way this group has prepared this pre-season. Our senior leaders have had positive attitudes and that has carried through to our younger players. We have put a big focus on our conditioning this year so hopefully that carries over when games start.”
Expectations: “Our expectation is to get back to the playoffs,” states Hamby. “We feel that is a place we belong year in and year out, so not making it last year was very disappointing to us.”

HABERSHAM CENTRAL

2021 Record: 8-9-1; Region 4th; 6A State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Jeff LaBarbara
Key Departures: Nyke Brown. “We graduated one starter from last year’s team, and we also lost MVP Brown,” says Labarbara. “So we lost a few good players, but the group as a whole has stayed intact.”
Key Players Returning: Sydney Turner, Piper Turner, JR Campbell, Madison Gabrels, Breelyn Carroll, Sarah Clark, Anna LaBarbera, Addi Banks, Paisley Cathey. “Most of last year’s starters are returning, so in a way the team is mostly all coming back,” says Labarbara. Defenders Sydney Turner, Piper Turner, and Campbell are back. Midfielders Gabrels and Carroll are returning. Goal scorers Clark, LaBarbera, and Banks are up top for us. We also are adding freshman Cathey to our midfield. Paisley is a great addition to our team.”
Strengths: “Experience,” says LaBarbara. “We have played together for some time now and our team chemistry is something that we can rely heavily on.”  
Expectations: “We should have a fantastic season, especially within our region,” adds LaBarbara. “I expect us to battle for a top position and advance to the state playoffs in 6A.”

JEFFERSON

2021 Record: 12-4; Region 3rd; 4A State Sweet 16; #3 State Ranking
Head Coach: Molly McCarty
Key Departures: N/A
Key Players Returning: 8 seniors – Meg Mizenis, Abbey Eison, Emily Byrd, Lanie McCarty, Rylie Servatius, Carter Drake, Macy McGinnis, and Bella Dominicali. Ella Parker, Molly Parker, Ella Sellers, Mackenzie Tooke
Strengths: “Dynamic group of players – all levels,” says McCarty. “Total buy-in to our team culture and expectations #fromthestart (as soon as we had our last game last season – those returning made it a priority to buy in #fromthestart).”
Expectations: “We scheduled more challenging non-region opponents this season to prepare us for region and expected playoff run,” says McCarty. “We have built more accountability into our player leadership. Our leadership team has done a great job so far of making each player fulfill their part on the team. We don’t want to be the same team we are today in April. It’s a process and our players are buying in to trusting it!”

LUMPKIN COUNTY

2021 Record: 12-5-1; Region Champions; 3A State Sweet 16; #3 State Ranking
Head Coach: Don Brock
Key Departures: Ashley Read, Cassidy Fuller, Julia Finesilver
Key Players Returning: Reagan Spivey, Rae Lynn Myers, Nicole Limehouse, Ellie Lance, Ryan Jones
Strengths: Winning tradition, great coaching, talented players
Expectations: “We have a great core returning and a great number of young players that are developing into great players,” says Brock. “It will be interesting to see how this group comes together. We expect to compete for another region title, but our region will be a challenge. Especially White County and Cherokee Bluff.”

RABUN COUNTY

2021 Record: 9-4-1; Region Champions; 2A State Sweet 16
Head Coach: Brad Holcombe
Key Departures: Lauren Barnes
Key Players Returning: N/A
Strengths: Experience and leadership
Expectations: Losing Lauren Barnes means 100+ career goals, and over 60 last year. That production has to come from somewhere else now, in aggregate rather than individually. The Lady Cats will look to see if they can once again take the region crown and make a deep playoff run.

STEPHENS COUNTY

2021 Record: 11-3; Region Runner-Up; 3A State Sweet 16
Head Coach: Erin Fleming
Key Departures: Brianna Wortman, Gabby Morrow, Sadie Peace, Jordyn Vena, Maggie Vena, Savannah Ayers. “We lost Wortman who was a key defender as well as Morrow who was a key offensive player,” says Fleming. “We also lost Peace, Jordyn and Maggie Vena, and Ayers who were integral in our success last year.”
Key Players Returning: Malia Magniapane, Riley McCollum, Grace Witherspoon, Blair Huddleston, Julia Knight, Reagan Worsley. “This year we are looking forward to Mangiapane, McCollum, and Witherspoon being key leaders on the field,” says Fleming. “We are welcoming several freshmen including Huddleston, Knight, and Worsley who will develop into key playmakers.”
Strengths: Young talent that can be molded to become future playmakers and leaders.
Expectations: “We anticipate an exciting season,” states Fleming.

TALLULAH FALLS

2021 Record: 8-4-1; Region Runner-Up; 1A Private State Rnd 1
Head Coach: Travis Mullis
Key Departures: Sydney Coffey, Fendi Jean Louis, Grace Kim. “Captains Coffey and JeanLouis as well as leading scorer Kim (10 goals), all of the contributing seniors,” says Mullis.
Key Players Returning: Honora Kahwach, Kat Williams. “2022 senior captains and 2021 all-region standouts, Kahwach and Williams,” says Mullis. “In addition, the team has 8 players who either started in 2021 or saw significant playing time. 3 new, experienced upperclassmen join the team along with 5 experienced freshmen.”
Strengths: “The team will have strength in all areas in 2022,” adds Mullis. “Players at all positions, forward, midfield, defender, and goalkeeper have multiple seasons of experience playing for TFS and their respective club teams. Further, those coming off of the bench have playing experience as well.”
Expectations: “After an historic 2021 season, senior captains Honora Kahwach and Kat Williams have even higher expectations for 2022,” says Mullis. “Both have been key players since beginning varsity play at TFS as freshmen. As seniors, they hope to complete their legacy of excellence before departing Tallulah Falls School en route to new endeavors. Though the team lost a significant number of quality seniors in 2021, the returning and new players bring experience and talent that could bring even more success than 2021. Along with Coach Higbie and Coach Chesser, I have enjoyed seeing the camaraderie and unity fostered during the preseason training. Not only do the girls play well together, they get along well too. It’s been great to see the girls work together when defending, possessing the ball, and attacking. What’s been greater though has been the sound of laughter, the girls just enjoying the game TOGETHER. And, we believe this will serve as the foundation for the team’s overall success in 2022.”

TOWNS COUNTY

2021 Record: 8-7; Region 4th; 1A Public State Final 4; #2 State Ranking
Head Coach: Clay Livingston
Key Departures: Kenzie Livingston, Kindra Bryant, Sam Matheson. “These 3 will be missed as much or more for their leadership as for their production on the field,” says Livingston.
Key Players Returning: Jayden Taylor, Miranda Spain, Bazya Smith, Sarah Shook, Macy Brinson, Halie Arrowood, Abby Gardella, Emma Lallement, Rylie Livingston, Brooke Murrell, Alana Stowers, Elizabeth Edwards, Gali Quijada, Laura Mauldin, Callie Drew Livingston. “We return a lot, although with GHSA moving the season up another week, many will miss the first few weeks of the season still playing basketball,” says Livingston. “Taylor, our leading scorer returns. Also up top, the bulk of our goal producers return, including Spain, Smith, Shook, Brinson, and Arrowood. We also add talented freshman Gardella into that mix. Lallement also returns as a more defensive-minded midfielder for us. She had an amazing playoff run last year. On the back end we return most of our defense led by Rylie Livingston at sweeper. She will be joined by Murrell, Stowers, Edwards, and Quijada. All-region keeper Mauldin will be playing basketball to start the season, but freshman Callie Drew Livingston will bring some much-needed experience and depth to the position.
Strengths: “I think the strength of our program will continue to be hard work and a bunch of great kids playing for each other,” adds Livingston.
Expectations: “The expectations for this program have been high for years, especially the last 4 or 5 years with an Elite 8 run in 2018 led by Coach John Cornett, and of course the Final 4 last year,” states Livingston. “It will be a great challenge to not just maintain that level of success, but to take it another step and play for and win a state championship.”

UNION COUNTY

2021 Record: 6-4-1; Region Runner-Up; 2A State Sweet 16
Head Coach: Tim Hunter
Key Departures: N/A
Key Players Returning: Kyra McKechnie, Avery Murray, Kaylee Helton, Loralei Skinner, Lara Turner, Zoe Crawford. “Sophomore McKechnie,1st Team All-Region last year, started every game for us and will anchor the goal again this year,” says Hunter.
Strengths: “We return 13 players who started multiple varsity games last season,” adds Hunter. “We will add 7 freshmen players this year but we return a much more experienced team. Last season we started 8-9 Freshmen and Sophomores last year and finished Region Runner Up and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the State Tournament. We will be a deep team this season with depth at virtually every spot. Kyra is one of the best keepers in North Georgia and should have an outstanding Sophomore year. We are still young in some spots but many of those girls play year-round so that more than makes the difference. Our defense should be very strong this season, we just need to solidify a couple of spots up front. Reagan Covington and Melia Whitener were both forwards who we lost to season-ending injuries last season. If they can come back and raise our level of play, then that should do a lot to help us up front.”
Expectations: “We always expect to compete for the Region Championship and to win some rounds in the State Tournament,” exclaims Hunter. “I hope this team answers that call and makes some noise in Region 8-AA and at the state level. We have a great group of high-character players who are a joy to coach and watch compete.”

WHITE COUNTY

2021 Record: 14-5; Region 3rd; 3A State Sweet 16; #2 State Ranking
Head Coach: Megan Runkle
Key Departures: Leah Alexander, Macy Boggs, LaRue Campbell, Aubrey Dowdy, Madison Hunter, McKinley Jones, Sydnee Nix, Ansley Seabolt, Ada Smith
Key Players Returning: Hazen Ramey, Lily Gearing, Rachel Harris, Nealeigh Broadwell, Anna Tatum, Reese Vandegriff, Liz Williams
Strengths: “This team is built upon respect for one another,” says Runkle. “Every single player is committed to filling roles and positions in whatever ways benefit the team. Practices are full of laughter, which makes us all love the beautiful game a little bit more.”
Expectations: “After graduating 9 starters last year, we know this is a year to grow,” states Runkle. “However, we refuse to lower to our expectations. We will continue to successfully compete in the strongest AAA region in the state and make another playoff run.” 

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