Ask Somers girls soccer coach Paul Saia about Hannon Eberts and three words tumble quickly from his lips.
“Heart.” “Drive.” “Desire.”
Almost as an afterthought, he adds the biggest factor in the junior’s 25 goals and 13 assists this year: “Ability.”
Eberts, who helped lead her team to its first state championship, is the Journal News/Lohud Westchester/Putnam girls soccer player of the year.
The 16-year-old junior forward started playing soccer as a kindergartener in the Somers American Youth Soccer Organization program. Her dad, Bob, was her coach until eighth grade.
“I loved it,” she recalled.
That hasn’t changed.
She’s one of an increasing number of high-level soccer players who get that way from playing all year.
Unlike many, though, Eberts also participates in another sport, running track. The fact she’s the school’s record-holder in the 400 probably wouldn’t surprise many soccer opponents.
Eberts is recognized for her speed, as well as her uncanny ability to score from the air.
In the Class A sectional semifinals, she gave the Tuskers an early 1-0 lead with a header in their eventual 2-1 win over Pearl River.
In the state semifinals, with Somers doing little offensively and trailing 1-0 with fewer than nine minutes left, Eberts flew from seemingly out of nowhere and, still in the air, got a foot on a Jenna Menta cross and put it in the back of the net.
And in the Tuskers’ 3-1 state championship win, she scored again.
“As a freshman, we brought her up from varsity halfway through and, instantly, she became our biggest scoring threat,” Saia said. “She has just progressed beautifully. She’s incredible in the air and she’s so hard to keep up with. She just has this second gear. She’s a fine, fine athlete.”
It was during her freshman year that soccer became more important to her.
“The heart of everyone on that team made me realize how fortunate I was to be playing. I realized how much I loved it,” Eberts said.
What she didn’t love that year was Somers’ sectional finals loss to Pearl River on post-overtime penalty kicks. Melissa Righetti (now a senior) and Eberts scored late in regulation to tie the score before a scoreless OT.
So, Somers’ meeting with the Pirates this past postseason carried special meaning.
“We kind of thought it was our job to beat them,” Eberts said.
Despite being undefeated, Somers was regarded as an underdog through much of the postseason, including the state final.
That was just fuel for Eberts.
“It was incredible,” she said of the Tuskers’ state title run. “Every game we needed to step up as a team.”
“We put so much hard work into winning. When you get the reward of winning, it’s indescribable.”
Now the kid whose classroom IQ seems to mirror her game IQ — a math lover, she wants to study either engineering or physical therapy and, of course, play college soccer — is looking to improve her play.
Saia expects she’ll do just that.
But he’s also fine with the 2014 version of Eberts.
“She’s a completely unselfish player, who puts her team first,” he said.
The rest of The Journal News Westchester/Putnam first-team all-stars:
F — Caitlin Fryer, Sr., Bronxville
F — Kelsey Goldring, Jr., Byram Hills
MF — Carly Barnett, Jr., Byram Hills
MF — Melina Couzis, So., Somers
MF — Shayna Levy, Sr., North Salem
MF — Jessica Kennett, Jr., Byram Hills
D — Hayley Bonner, Sr., Somers
D — Missy Lisikatos, So., Haldane
D — Julia Shea, Sr., Mahopac
G — Charley Warble, Sr., Bronxville
Coach of the year: Having three state championship teams from Westchester and Putnam is a remarkable achievement. Because of this, The Journal News chooses all three state-champion coaches as our coaches of the year. They are Gary Van Asselt of Class C champion Haldane, Don Cupertino of Class B champion Bronxville and Paul Saia of undefeated, Class A champion Somers.
F — Alyssa Francese, So., Yorktown
F — Lucy Kohlhoff, Sr., Bronxville
F — Vanessa Romero, Sr., Valhalla
MF — Sam Coffey, So., Masters
MF — Bailey McCollum, Jr., Haldane
MF — Allie Monteleone, Sr., Haldane
MF — Abby Squirrell, Sr., Ossining
D — Jenna Heitzler, Sr., Briarcliff
D — Grace Orr, Sr., Briarcliff
D — Michelle Wienecke, Sr., Somers
G — Danielle Okun, So., White Plains
Honorable mention: Maggie Ahern, Jr., Holy Child; Stephanie Amengual, Sr., Kennedy; Olivia Bespolka, Sr., Valhalla; Margaret Brady, Jr., Holy Child; Kerry Brosnan, So., Kennedy; Libby Closson, Sr., Scarsdale; Gabi Casado-Cocero, Sr., Edgemont; Sam Corbi, Sr., Holy Child; Kathleen Daly, Jr., Holy Child; Abigail Dolgos, Sr., Ursuline; Killian Donohue, Sr., Bronxville; Casey Duff, Jr., Yorktown; Kate Dymes, Sr., Croton-on-Hudson; Maddie Eck, Jr., Rye; Kat Ensign, Sr., Harrison; Remi Godner, Sr., Byram Hills; Emma Haith, Sr., Tuckahoe; Ingrid Hirt, So., Masters; Zhane Jacinto, Jr., Saunders; Gail Kheyman, Sr., Eastchester; Jalay Knowles, Sr., Ossining; Hannah Krapes, Sr., Rye; Remi Manna, Jr., Pleasantville; Julia Massaro, Sr., Rye Country Day; Erin McClave, Jr., Mamaroneck; Erin McDonald, Sr., Scarsdale; Joanna Miller, Sr., Hackley; Gabby Picciano, Jr., Hen Hud; Rachel Pollack, Sr., Byram Hills; McKenzie Redfern, Sr., Westlake; Taylor Regan, So., Rye Country Day; Kristen Reilly, Sr., Mahopac; Courtney Shaw, Sr., Blind Brook; Stephanie Shea, Sr., North Salem; Julia Simons, Sr., Mamaroneck; Kelsey Simpson, Sr., Briarcliff; Luisa Stalman, So., Hackley; Hannah Stein, Sr., Hastings; Sarina Stein, Jr., Irvington; Kelsey Simpson, Sr., Briarcliff; Sam Sudol, Sr., Panas; Luisa Stalman, So., Hackley; Hannah Stein, Sr., Hastings; Charlotte Tucci, Sr., Rye; Lauren Vallarelli, Sr., Rye Neck; Sophie Wolf, So., New Rochelle.
Fan-selected all-star team
Shayna Levy, Sr., North Salem and Bailey McCollum, Jr., Haldane (tied for leading vote-getter)
Marina Martin, Jr., Haldane
Kristen Reilly, Sr., Mahopac
Allie Monteleone, Sr., Haldane
Missy Lisikatos, So., Haldane
Kaitlyn Murphy, Sr., North Salem
Sophie Wolf, So., New Rochelle
Lucy Kohlhoff, Sr., Bronxville
Stephanie Shea, Sr., North Salem
Carly Barnett, Jr., Byram Hills
Melina Couzis, So., Somers
Caitlyn Fryer, Sr., Bronxville
Remi Manna, Jr., Pleasantville
Julia Shea, Sr., Mahopac
Charley Warble, Sr., Bronxville
Sunday, Nov. 30: Boys soccer
Wednesday, Dec. 3: Field hockey
Thursday, Dec. 4: Girls swimming
Friday, Dec. 5: Volleyball
Sunday, Dec. 7: Girls soccer
Wednesday, Dec. 10: Tennis
Thursday, Dec. 11: Boys cross country
Friday, Dec. 12: Girls cross country
Sunday, Dec. 14: Football