The future of girls soccer in Aurora looks incredibly bright, as a new wave of young talent arrived in 2014.
Impact freshmen appeared at programs all over the city —which saw six teams qualify for the Class 5A girls state soccer playoffs — and many found their way onto the 2014 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Soccer Team, which is selected by the Sentinel in conjunction with voting of city coaches.
The city’s new freshmen were particularly potent on offense, led by Hinkley striker Teaggan Ilela, the city’s leader in goals scored. While also running track, Ilela found the back of the net 28 times and dished out 15 assists on her way to winning East Metro Athletic Conference Player of the Year award.
Ilela’s arrival helped the T-Birds and coach David Nickoloff — the EMAC Coach of the Year — win 11 games and end a lengthy playoff drought, though she was unable to play in the postseason because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the second-to-last game of the season. She underwent surgery on her right knee June 11 and will lean on her club teammate from Real Colorado who recently returned from a torn ACL for advice.
“I scored my goals in a variety of different ways and it was spread out in a lot of games, so that was good,” Ilela said. “It was bad that I couldn’t play in the playoffs, but it was a lot of fun… I didn’t really go in with any expectations, but it was a great season overall.”
Cherokee Trail’s Rebekah Burton also finished regularly as a freshman, as the striker notched 14 goals — most of any Aurora player in the Centennial League and one off the league lead set by co-Centennial League Player of the Year Lauren Conley of Arapahoe — and helped lift the young Cougars into a playoff berth of their own. She also relished playing with sister Taylor, a standout midfielder who played a crucial role defensively in the middle of the field.
The sisters often connected on goals as well, as many of Taylor Burton’s four assists were finished by her sibling.
“Some of my goals came on corner kicks with headers or side volleys, some came from Taylor drifting the ball into the forwards and me running onto it and some I would just take a player on and dribble through, so they cam in all different ways,” Rebekah Burton said. “It was a fun season. My older sister (Emily) played at CT for four years and Taylor for the last two years, so I knew the coach and their style of play. I was looking forward to something different than club.”
With Emily Burton’s graduation, Taylor Burton assumed more of a leadership role, which was crucial with a very young lineup.
“It was fun playing with my sister and I love the girls on the team, so it was a good experience,” Taylor Burton said. “We built our friendship and chemistry all season, so I think we’ll get a lot further next year.”
Smoky Hill (12-3-1) had a large infusion of strong freshmen, but the Buffaloes’ experienced talent still stood out during a remarkable season that ended with an upset loss to Dakota Ridge on its home field.
Sophomore striker Sam Howshar — who came through repeatedly in the clutch for the Buffaloes with three game-winning goals — shared Centennial League Player of the Year honors after leading the team with nine assists and 10 goals, which tied for the team-best with midfielder Brynell Yount.
Howshar had an injury-plagued freshman season that forced her to have two hip surgeries, which made her glad to finish 2014 with 100 percent health. She had big shoes to fill with the graduation of star and megawatt personality Candace Cephers.
“I knew coming back without Candace or those high-quality players, I had a big responsibility,” Howshar said. “I can’t wait for next season, we’re going to have so much potential.”
Yount again balanced soccer and track during the spring season and used her fitness level to challenge defenses down the field, while her ability to finish also improved.
Confident, aggressive sophomore Sami Brooks keyed a young, but stout Smoky Hill defense in front of junior standout goalkeeper Megan Kneefel and helped the team allow a league-low 13 goals.
Kneefel committed to Fort Hays (Kan.) prior to the season and said it allowed her to just go out and only worry about her play in the nets.
“There’s a lot of pressure that is no longer there, to not worry about finding somewhere to go,” said Kneefel, who said she plans to play a sport in all three seasons of her senior year. “They’re picking kids a lot younger now and committing them, so it’s a good feeling to already be on a team and know that its going to be my family for the next four years.”
Grandview — the only city team to win in the first round of the playoffs — led the Centennial League with 54 goals, with Oregon-bound senior midfielder Brooke Tasker registering 11 and speedy senior Maddi Rodriguez adding 10.
Tasker’s toughness and ability to finish made her difficult to contend with for opponents, while Rodriguez, a Colorado State signee, constantly applied pressure on defenses with her speed and her work as the Wolves’ main corner kick option helped her lead the team with seven assists.
Senior Katie Cunningham, a basketball standout who led Grandview to the 5A semifinals, provided the experience and physicality on a backline that welcomed in a number of talented youngsters like future stars Taylor Parker and Nicole Lubyenko, both freshmen. Cunningham was a rock-solid physical presence and used her 5-11 frame and basketball instincts to dominate balls in the air.
Forward Megan Campbell and midfielder Vanessa Madera tallied 21 goals apiece to lead 11-5 Rangeview to a fourth straight EMAC championship.
Campbell — who finished her career with 65 goals and 37 assists — came away disappointed that her team had its heart broken in the opening round of the playoffs every year and attributed a lot of it to the very little competition the Raiders found in their league.
“We always make it to the first round and always lose on overtime, every year I’ve been here,” said Campbell, who is headed to Laramie (Wyo.) County C..C. “We had the chances, but I don’t think we applied ourselves as much. A lot of that comes from the conference we play in.”
Madera was the EMAC Player of the Year and had another standout season as a senior, when she scored a career-high in goals, several of the spectacular variety.
Eaglecrest had shared goalkeeper duties for much of the season, but the defense remained a strong constant. Junior Cheyenne Brown, a club-experience player, contributed significantly in her first season with the Raptors.
Brown played a key role on defense that allowed the second-fewest goals in the Centennial League and was the only defender from an Aurora school chosen to the all-league first team.
Regis Jesuit finished third in the Continental League with some remarkable results, including a 0-0 tie with 2013 5A state champion Mountain Vista. The Raiders didn’t score much, but they also didn’t allow much as well, as junior Haley Thompson assisted with. Thompson played her way onto the All-Continental League first team for the second straight season.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2014 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY GIRLS SOCCER TEAM
FORWARD — Rebekah Burton, Cherokee Trail, fr.; Megan Campbell, Rangeview, sr.; Teaggan Ilela, Hinkley, fr.; Sam Howshar, Smoky Hill, soph.; Maddi Rodriguez, Grandview, sr.; MIDFIELD — Taylor Burton, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Vanessa Madera, Rangeview, sr.; Brooke Tasker, Grandview, sr.; Brynell Yount, Smoky Hill, jr.; DEFENSE — Sami Brooks, Smoky Hill, soph.; Cheyenne Brown, Eaglecrest, jr.; Katie Cunningham, Grandview, sr.; Haley Thompson, Regis Jesuit, jr.; GOALKEEPER – Megan Kneefel, Smoky Hill, jr.
FORWARD — Kelsi Lidge, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Nadia Morris, Eaglecrest, fr.; Brooke Sosa, Smoky Hill, fr.; Whitney Taggart, Grandview, sr.; MIDFIELD — Natalie Baltizar, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Gabby Garcia, Eaglecrest, sr.; Jessica Hixson, Rangeview, fr.; Jordyn Murch, Eaglecrest, sr.; DEFENSE — Emily Goodson, Smoky Hill, fr.; Britteny Lewis, Smoky Hill, fr.; Taylor Parker, Grandview, fr.; Carly Taphorn, Rangeview, jr.
Rylee Atteberry, Eaglecrest, fr. (GK); Ashley Broeker, Rangeview, sr. (F); Bailey Coulson, Overland, soph. (GK); Marisa Duran, Gateway, sr. (M); Marie Ferdinand, Hinkley, soph. (F); Kimberly Fuentes, Hinkley, sr. (D); Madison Garst, Rangeview, sr. (M); Mary Kinney, Grandview, sr. (M); Emily Langenderfer, Regis Jesuit, soph. (M); Valeria Loera, Hinkley, sr. (GK); Nicole Lubyenko, Grandview, fr. (D); Maria Martin Del Campo, Aurora Central, sr. (M); Jackie McBride, Rangeview, soph. (D); Diana Rivera, Hinkley, sr. (D); Cassidy Robinson, Smoky Hill, sr. (D); Areslie Rodarte, Hinkley, sr. (M); Courtney Schmidt, Cherokee Trail, fr. (M); Leah Stoffel, Smoky Hill, sr. (M); Jolee Thailing, Rangeview, sr. (D); Tara Vigil, Eaglecrest, jr. (D); Kat Young, Overland, jr. (M)