A month later, winning the Class 5A state championship is more of a reality to the members of the Grandview girls soccer team.
Still, the word “surreal” came up frequently for the five members of the Wolves’ title-winning squad who made the 2015 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Soccer Team, which is picked by the Sentinel in conjunction with the voting of city coaches.
Senior goalkeeper Maddie Lesjak, junior forward Bailey Cook and a trio of juniors — defenders Jessica Hixson and Taylor Parker and midfielder Nicole Lyubenko — represent Grandview’s loaded lineup, while they are joined by players from Cherokee Trail (Rebekah and Taylor Burton), Smoky Hill (Sami Brooks and Sam Howshar), Eaglecrest (Korena Perales), Hinkley (Teaggan Ilela) and Rangeview (Carly Taphorn).
Coach Tari Wood’s Grandview team received the distinction as MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in the country — a mythical title determined by a formula that includes strength of schedule — because of its strength and depth at every level.
Not surprisingly, three players from the defensive core for Grandview made the All-City first team in the pair of Hixson and Parker on the backline and Lesjak in the goal. The Wolves yielded just five goals all season, while Hixson and Parker combined to score 10 themselves.
Hixson’s size in the air and quick reactions helped her tally nine goals, including what proved to be the game-winner off a corner kick in the 5A state championship game against Broomfield, while Parker (who verbally committed to the University of Denver during the season) added one while providing a tireless presence on defense. Lesjak was the “heart and soul” of the Wolves’ championship run, according to Wood and was the only senior in the starting lineup for the state championship game.
Offensively, Lyubenko flourished in a midfield role and scored 12 goals, while her pinpoint corner kick crosses often found their way into the net. She set up Hixson for header finishes in both the Wolves’ 1-0 win over Smoky Hill in the playoffs and the first goal in the championship game. Cook, along with All-City second teamer Mandi Duggan, stretched defenses with their speed. Cook scored nine goals on the season with four of them coming in the postseason, three in a first-round against Hinkley and the game-winner in overtime in the semifinals against ThunderRidge.
Cherokee Trail’s breakout season at the 5A level came about with the improvement of a lot of young talent, but the Burton sisters were the fulcrum of the Cougars’ improvement. Rebekah Burton led the Centennial League with 19 goals, while Taylor Burton, a Wyoming signee, dished out eight assists in addition to five goals.
Smoky Hill lost a pair of 1-0 games to Grandview, so the Buffaloes were somewhat satisfied with their season. Howshar reached double-digit goals for the third time in her career with 10, plus nine assists, while Brooks continued to be one of the best 1-on-1 defenders around.
Ilela repeated as EMAC Player of Year with a big sophomore season, but she came up short in her aim to better her freshman campaign. Ilela matched last season’s total of 26 goals, which again led Aurora, along with 14 assists.
The elusive Perales, a Metro State signee, racked up 15 goals to cement her place atop the school record book and served as a leader for a team ravaged by injuries.
Eheart tallied 15 goals to lead Regis Jesuit, but they weren’t just any goals. In fact, Eheart scored two of the five goals given up all season by Grandview and also had the game-winner in the Raiders’ playoff win over Mountain Range.
Rangeview graduated a ton of offense, but its defense remained strong with the presence of three-time EMAC first-team pick Taphorn, who coach Vic Strouse called the best defender in the conference.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2015 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY GIRLS SOCCER TEAM
Forward: Bailey Cook, Grandview, jr.; Karli Eheart, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Teaggan Ilela, Hinkley, soph.; Sam Howshar, Smoky Hill, jr.; Midfield: Rebekah Burton, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Taylor Burton, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Nicole Lyubenko, Grandview, soph.; Korena Perales, Eaglecrest, sr.; Defense: Sami Brooks, Smoky Hill, jr.; Jessica Hixson, Grandview, soph.; Taylor Parker, Grandview, soph.; Carly Taphorn, Rangeview, sr.; Goalkeeper: Maddie Lesjak, Grandview, sr.
Forward: Mandi Duggan, Grandview, jr.; Alesia Garcia, Cherokee Trail, fr.; Raquel Isaac, Hinkley, jr.; Brooke Sosa, Smoky Hill, soph.; Midfield: Natalie Beckman, Grandview, fr.; Emily Langenderfer, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Sierra Rivera, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Brynell Yount, Smoky Hill, sr.; Defense: Hannah Edwards, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Lindsi Jennings, Grandview, fr.; Brittney Lewis, Smoky Hill, soph.; Haley Thompson, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Goalkeeper: Rylee Atteberry, Eaglecrest, soph.
Stephany Alcazar, Gateway, soph. (defense); Ingrid Alvarez, Overland, sr. (midfield); Natalie Baltizar, Regis Jesuit, sr. (midfield); Kierra Cox, Vista PEAK, fr. (midfield); Marie Ferdinand, Hinkley, jr. (defense); Maddie Germann, Grandview, jr. (midfield); Emily Goodson, Smoky Hill, soph. (defense); Emily Griffith, Regis Jesuit, jr. (goalkeeper); Michaela Harshfield, Eaglecrest, jr. (midfield); Taylor Heil, Cherokee Trail, jr. (goalkeeper); Heaven Irwin, Rangeview, jr. (defense); Jessica Jefferson, Vista PEAK, fr. (defense); Abby Kassal, Regis Jesuit, fr. (forward); Katherine Khuu, Hinkley, sr. (defense); Megan Kneefel, Smoky Hill, sr. (goalkeeper); Taylor Ohu, Rangeview, soph. (forward); Mary Perez, Rangeview, fr. (midfield); Sydney Pulver, Regis Jesuit, soph. (midfield); Jordan Quinn, Vista PEAK, fr. (forward); Ashley Rager, Hinkley, jr. (midfield); Areslie Rodarte, Hinkley, sr. (goalkeeper); Courtney Schmidt, Cherokee Trail, soph. (midfield); Tara Vigil, Eaglecrest, sr. (defense); Rachel Vincent, Rangeview, soph. (defense); Kat Young, Overland, jr. (midfield); Allie Zerr, Grandview, fr. (defense)