Coming off a season where it won a district title for the first time in 10 years, Leon’s girls soccer team isn’t resting on its laurels despite the loss of two key seniors.
The Lions picked up a 3-0 district win over Chiles on Tuesday night, thanks to goals in the 33rd, 64th and 75th minutes by freshman Liney Brantley, sophomore Maddie Powell, and freshman Emma McGibany, respectively.
And that uncovers a truth: Leon is still deep; as much for its returners as its incoming talent.
“It’s not a bad problem,” seventh-year Lions coach Tony Kidd said. “It’s nice to have that level coming in. The biggest thing is reining them in to what we’re trying to do as opposed to what they’re used to doing. That’s tough, especially for freshmen. They tend to be real excitable when they come into high school.”
The first big challenge for Kidd is inter-working the new players into the same 4-3-3 system that worked so well last year.
That’s because two of the midfielders— Maddy Keenan and Bibiana Nunez— graduated, leaving sophomore Powell to move from forward to midfield. Freshman Emma McGibany joins with her and returning junior starter Isabel Nunez.
“I realize that all the goals I scored were off through balls from the midfield from Maddy, Bibi and Bel,” said Powell, who had 22 last year. “I have a greater appreciation for their hard work in the midfield to link the balls to the forwards so we could get a shot off and score. It’s a big adjustment. It just requires lots of communication and learning how we each play.”
Brantley learned from an early missed goal-scoring chance against Chiles, having shot high and wide from her non-dominant right foot. She opened the night’s scoring by collecting herself before putting it low and away.
Powell got a goal on a header off a through ball by Jordan Ray and a heel flick from Kate Carter that bounced high in the six-foot box. And McGibany cleaned up a brilliant pass through center box with a swift kick.
All said, a good night for Leon’s youth movement as they chase down another district title
“They just get out there and have a good time, and that’s all they worry about,” Kidd said. “And that’s another good thing. They don’t let things get to their head.”
Standouts: Kate Carter, So., F; Jennifer Shotwell-Long, Sr., D; Maddie Powell, So., M/F; Isabel Nunez, Jr., M; Liney Brantley, Fr., F; Talise Jager-Sumner, Sr., D
Taylor breaks in at Chiles
For the last three years, first-year Chiles coach Lindsay Taylor was in New York, working for the Red Bulls as a youth training coach.
Taking a job here with Tallahassee Tottenham Hotspur FC, Taylor got another gig added to her resume.
She’s now charged with bringing the Timberwolves’ girls’ program into a similar standing as the boys’, which is coming off a state title.
“That is ultimately the goal, and I remind the girls all the time of why we step on the field and why we train really hard for each other,” Taylor said. “We want small steps. Our first goal is to win district, but ultimately we’re trying to go to state.”
Chiles lost two premium talents in Jessica Weeks and Emmalee Phillips to graduation, but the Timberwolves return sophomore defender Dorian Simpkins and junior midfielder Olivia Snow.
Taylor has also moved junior Kinley Emerson into a center back position as opposed to up to more of an attacking position as she was last year, which utilizes better her speed and willfullness to throw her body around.
“I’m not afraid to move people around,” Taylor said. “Kinley has great speed and can recover if there’s a ball played through. She’s not afraid to get into a tackle. Even though she’s small, she’s mighty. I would want to play for that girl any day of the week. She lays it on the line and won’t ever quit.”
Snow and junior Isabelle Bevan-Thomas should be the primary goal-scoring threats for the Timberwolves, who haven’t won a district title since 2011.
“I think the girls have started to realize that the environment I create at practice, if they’re not working hard, they’re not going to play in the game,” Taylor said. “I’m not afraid to start freshman, and we do have a young team. The majority of starters our sophomores. We’re working our way up there. We need the players that have been here three and four years to teach the younger players how to play at an elite level. We’re here to grow the program.”
Standouts: Olivia Snow, Jr., M/F; Isabelle Bevan-Thomas, Jr., F; Kinley Emerson, Jr., D; Dorian Simpkins, So., D
Look out for…
Florida High junior Taylor Cherry and senior Bethany Zamarron. Both scored over 16 goals last year even with All-Big Bend Player of the Year and current Charleston Southern freshman Anna Menendez (36 goals) dominating attention.
Lincoln senior Rebekah Dennis. Returning All-Big Bend first teamer will hold down the defense on a roster of change that will need to find a primary goal scorer.
Wakulla senior Cheyenne Whittington. Explosive and fast, she could very well lead the area in scoring this year.
John Paul II senior Jackie Golabek. Talented midfielder with a penchant for keeping the ball at her feet even with pressure.
Maclay’s youngsters. Sophomore defender Julianna Heuchan and freshman forward Katie Lynch are the next wave for a strong program.
Taylor County junior forward Jessie Gregory, who scores goals in bunches.
LEON 3, CHILES 0
L — Liney Brantley (Madison Reeves), 33:12
L — Maddie Powell (Jordan Ray, Kate Carter), 63:18
L — Emma McGibany (Lilli Hanks), 74:55
Corners — Chiles: 1; Leon: 5
Shots (on goal) — Chiles: 4 (3); Leon: 17 (10)
Saves — Chiles: 7 (Lauren Delp); Leon: 3 (Angela Fountain)