King’s Fork High School junior Rachel Gist, left, tries to get past fellow team captain, senior Maiah Wright, at practice on Friday.
King’s Fork High School junior Rachel Gist, left, tries to get past fellow team captain, senior Maiah Wright, at practice on Friday.

Lady Bulldogs loaded with talent

Published 10:43pm Friday, March 14, 2014

King’s Fork High School’s girls’ soccer team is coming off a losing season, and it has a new head coach, but all of the coach’s expectations run contrary to any notion that 2014 could be a rebuilding year for the Lady Bulldogs.

“I’ve come into a really good situation, in all honesty,” said Jason Stump, who takes over as coach for Sarah Hutzler.

He said while a lot of teams rely on players with age and experience to anchor the team, “We have across-the-board talent.”

Players from seniors to freshmen will have responsibilities and opportunities to lead because of their abilities. Some bring pure athleticism, but not as much soccer experience, while others on the team complement that imbalance well.

“Our goal is to win the conference title, and I know that that’s definitely an achievable goal for us,” Stump said.

Showing the depth of confidence he has in a deep King’s Fork team, he went a step further.

“I think we’re the team to beat in Conference 18,” he said. “I don’t mind saying that.”

Stump has played a role in developing some of the girls on the varsity team because his previous coaching experience has come through leading the Lady Bulldogs junior varsity squad for the past two years. He has coached for the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association, and also played soccer back in high school.

Happy with the level of competition that will result from the Virginia High School League’s realignment, Stump will deploy five team captains to lead the on-field efforts against schools of all sizes this year.

One captain will be senior Maiah Wright, who has played forward in the past. However, after Stump saw what she did defensively for the field hockey team last year, she will now be a defensive leader on the soccer pitch.

Senior team captain Naaja Lyons will serve the team primarily in the midfield, but also the front line.

Junior team captain Hannah Washburn is a quiet leader who will work the outside part of the midfield. Also working primarily in that area will be another junior team captain, Rachel Gist.

Junior Lindsay Ransome, the final team captain, will play almost exclusively up front on offense.

“She is definitely going to be key up there,” Stump said.

He expects a wealth of other players, many of them quite young, to fill big roles and make valuable contributions, as well.

Stump said freshman Skylar Wall will anchor the defense at the sweeper position.

He gave high praise to freshman Rebecca Washburn when he said, “She is the middle of our field, really,” adding, “She’s just a phenomenal soccer player.”

Freshman Cydney Nichols, a standout on the varsity basketball team this year, is expected to be a leader on offense.

Stump highlighted sophomore Carlee Morse, a swimming star, as similar to a utility player.

“I can put her anywhere on the field and she’s going to do a stand-up job,” he said.

The Lady Bulldogs will also benefit from some transfer students. Junior goalkeeper Reagan Stone moved here from Georgia, and freshman defender Nia Nickerson came from Nansemond River High School, where she played for the JV team as an eighth-grader.

In light of all the underclassmen he cited, Stump said, “I’m looking at a couple years here of some really good teams.”

In terms of this season, he said, “Things are feeling really good right now,” but added if the team suffers setbacks late in the season against more challenging opponents, “The biggest challenge is to get through that and to grow from it,” and “to not lose the momentum that we have now.”

King’s Fork’s season begins on Tuesday at home against Deep Creek High School.

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