Aurora’s state championship streak came to end in girls soccer when Grandview’s three-peat attempt fell short.
The city’s run of producing top-notch talent on the pitch remained intact, however, as a whopping 40 players earned all-conference accolades across the Centennial, Continental and EMAC.
The 2017 Aurora Sentinel All-Aurora Girls Soccer Team, as selected by the Sentinel in conjunction with balloting of Aurora coaches, is jam-packed with top talent spread out all over town.
Grandview’s three-peat bid came up short with an agonizing loss in the Class 5A state semifinals on penalty kicks to Mountain Vista, which eventually won the state championship.
Coach Tari Wood’s Wolves had a new look due to some graduation and early departures of championship pieces from the previous years, but still had a talented roster from top to bottom that rivaled any in Colorado.
With a young team finding its way, the leadership displayed by seniors Taylor Parker and Jessica Hixson (plus Valerie Peyton) proved vital, especially in rough times. The Wolves lost their first two games of the season — coming off a 36-game unbeaten streak — but the seniors helped the team get back on track in a hurry.
Parker verbally committed to the University of Denver two years ago and turned in yet another outstanding season, playing a variety of roles. She played plenty in her accustomed position on Grandview’s dynamic back line, but she also went forward when needed. Parker scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the second round of the 5A playoffs against Fossil Ridge and she finished with three goals and three assists.
On many occasions, Wood moved Hixson from defense to the midfield, the place where Grandview’s graduation and departures left the biggest holes. The University of Utah recruit was disappointed that she scored fewer goals than in any of her previous three varsity seasons (three), but her presence was significant.
On a balanced offensive team, junior Morgan Szarka provided key punch for the Wolves. Her opportunistic goal on a seemingly innocent play late in the first half of Grandview’s 5A state quarterfinal game against Regis Jesuit proved to be the game-winner and Szarka (a Creighton commitment) also had her team’s lone goals against Cherry Creek — 5A’s top seed — and state champion Mountain Vista in the second game of the season.
Junior Lindsi Jennings continued her stellar defensive play for the Wolves and also got some time in the midfield on a team filled with versatility. The recent Mississippi State commit played aggressively in the back and took advantage of when she was able to go forward with a career-high five goals to go with three assists.
Regis Jesuit began to realize the awesome potential it had in recent years and began its season with a bang with a 1-0 victory over Grandview right out the gate. Coach Will Cropper’s Raiders had outstanding talent in every part of the field.
In the midfield, Washington State signee Sydney Pulver — an All-Continental League first team selection — pressed the issue for Regis Jesuit and finished with a team-high eight goals, two shy of her career high set as a junior.
On a defense that gave up just 13 goals in 18 games — one more than Grandview — junior Mia Albery asserted herself tremendously for the Raiders. Besides her tenacious play on the backline, Albery chipped in two goals, including one in a win over eventual 5A state finalist Arapahoe. Although she had an outstanding defense in front of her, junior goalie Katelyn Martin rose to the occasion often and had an outstanding record in big games as the Raiders faced a grueling schedule both in and out of the Continental League.
Regis Jesuit made its playoff push without junior forward Abby Kassal, an All-Continental League first team performer who was lost with a concussion. In 12 games, Kassal tallied seven goals to finish one behind Pulver for the team lead and also contributed three assists.
Cherokee Trail had its most successful season since moving up to 5A as coach Jeremy Schaller’s group pulled off two upsets in the postseason before falling to Arapahoe in the quarterfinals.
The Cougars must move on without graduated star Rebekah Burton, who leaves with just about every offensive record in program history. The University of Montana-bound midfielder led a trio of double-digit goal scorers with 19 goals — including at least one in 13 games — to match her career high. The All-Centennial League first team pick added five assists as well.
With an offense that ranked just outside of the top 10 in goals scored, Cherokee Trail didn’t need to shut out opponents. The Cougars had a few games where they ceded big goal totals, but played solidly in the back for the most part. Senior Hannah Edwards, another four-year varsity player, provided a physical, steady presence and allowed other back line players to move into the attack when it was needed.
When senior Brooke Sosa scored a goal, chances were Smoky Hill won in 2017. The University of Idaho-bound striker tallied a team-high 12 goals, with at least one coming in six of the eight wins for the Buffaloes, a 5A playoff qualifier. Sosa doubled her goal total from the previous season and improved her career-high — set as a freshman — by four.
Hinkley senior Teaggan Ilela claimed a spot on the All-Aurora team for the fourth straight season with yet another dymanic campaign. She signed with Division I Alabama State prior to the season and then produced her fourth 20-goal season, all while running with the school’s track team as well.
With 22 goals, Ilela finished with a stunning 98 for her career, good for 1.7 per game.
Junior Kierra Cox returned from a torn ACL to lead Vista PEAK as it joined the EMAC for the first time. The star striker saw her production dip from her sophomore season — when she scored 34 goals — but she tallied 18 goals to go with 12 assists against better competition.
Cox’s hopes of playing college soccer hinge in part on her recovery from another ACL injury.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2017 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-AURORA GIRLS SOCCER TEAM
FIRST TEAM: Forward — Kierra Cox, Vista PEAK, jr.; Teaggan Ilela, Hinkley, sr.; Abby Kassal, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Brooke Sosa, Smoky Hill, sr.; Midfield — Rebekah Burton, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Jessica Hixson, Grandview, sr.; Sydney Pulver, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Morgan Szarka, Grandview, jr.; Defense — Mia Albery, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Hannah Edwards, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Lindsi Jennings, Grandview, jr.; Taylor Parker, Grandview, sr.; Goalie — Katelyn Martin, Regis Jesuit, jr.
SECOND TEAM: Forward — Alesia Garcia, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Karli Eheart, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Delaney McLelland, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Shalom Prince, Grandview, soph.; Midfield — Mary Perez Aguire, Rangeview, jr.; Natalie Beckman, Grandview, jr.; Makaela Hudcovic, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Brittney Lewis, Smoky Hill, sr.; Defense — Emily Goodson, Smoky Hill, sr.; Kyla Lowry, Rangeview, sr.; Gabby McWilliams, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Allie Zerr, Grandview, sr.; Goalie — Reagan McCombs, Grandview, jr.
Kenya Arredondo, Aurora Central, fr. (GK); Jasmine Bowman, Rangeview, soph. (M); Wendy De Raza, Vista PEAK, jr. (D); Rachel Fuentes, Aurora Central, fr. (F/M); Alex Glennemeier, Eaglecrest, sr. (GK); Paige Hickman, Cherokee Trail, fr. (GK); Grace Hildner, Grandview, jr. (D); Clair Huston, Cherokee Trail, jr. (D); Kacy Johnston, Grandview, soph. (M); Celia Jotte, Regis Jesuit, jr. (M); Ava Laden, Regis Jesuit, fr. (F); Maddie Livingston, Grandview, soph. (GK); Nadia Morris, Eaglecrest, sr. (M); Tayler Ohu, Rangeview, sr. (F/M); Leslie Penaloza, Hinkley, jr. (GK); Valeria Perez, Aurora Central, jr. (M/D); Jordan Quinn, Vista PEAK, jr. (F); Molly Reich, Regis Jesuit, soph. (D); Priscilla Rivera, Overland, jr. (M); Elena Rodriguez, Hinkley (D), jr.; Amy Romero, Vista PEAK, jr. (D); Perla Guzman Ruvalcaba, Gateway (M), jr.; Zariah Smith, Cherokee Trail, sr. (D); Jordan Stoner, Eaglecrest, jr. (D); Nevaeh “Pixie” Torres, Aurora Central, soph. (F); Shanna Trott, Smoky Hill, sr. (M); Rachel Vincent, Rangeview, sr. (D); Keelie Wortmann, Grandview, soph. (M)