It's difficult to imagine anyone dominating normally parity-laden Bay Rivers District girls soccer as thoroughly as Jamestown High did a year ago. And yet the Eagles are, if anything, poised to control the district even more decisively this season than last.
Following a 0-0 tie with Tabb in their district opener, the Eagles won their next games against district foes by a score of 60-2 in winning regular-season and tournament titles. The Eagles did graduate a few players from their Group AA state quarterfinalists, most notably defensive standout Marissa Segala: the Daily Press Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
A combination of factors point toward a Jamestown roll to the title. They include the return of much of the attack from last year's high-scoring team, led by the trio of midfielder Bailey Cristian (9 goals, 13 assists), forward Paige Majdic (18 goals, 16 assists) and Aaliyah Lyttle (20 goals, 14 assists).
Then there's the stability provided by Kevin and Michelle Dawson. The husband-wife coaching team has a stellar 77-14-7 record in five seasons with the Eagles.
Finally, the absence of obvious challengers could make the Eagles' flight to the top of the district easier than usual. The Bay Rivers does not appear to possess the depth it did two seasons ago, when Tabb and Grafton snagged state tournament berths, leaving Jamestown at home.
It would be no surprise if the Eagles make a deep 4A state tourney run this year. Below is our Bay Rivers outlook with predicted order of finish:
1. JAMESTOWN (17-2-2, 8-0-1 district in 2013). Along with the aforementioned scoring threats, the Eagles had first- or second-team all-district selections in D Alex Dayton, GK Hannah Sams, F Peyton Helbert, MF Tori Bennett and D Maddie Clevinger. Morgan Connell and Peyton Flores received all-district honorable mention.
2. GRAFTON (8-7-1, 5-3-1). While 2013 was something of a rebuilding year, Johnny Yu's Clippers should move back near the top of the district with a group that includes returners D Kaitlin Yachem, D Sophia Beaudoin, D Jamie Brown, M Taylor Bradshaw, M Aileen Ahlers and M Jackie Armstrong.
3. WARHILL (8-7-1, 5-3-1). Center-midfielder Lindsey Williams, a standout on the 2011 district champs, will run the show, while Julia Shawver gives the Lions a strong marker on a defense that includes a returning starter at goalie in sophomore Aaliyah Tyler. Among the newcomers, junior Amber Shea will be expected to contribute scoring.
4. TABB (13-4-2, 6-1-2). New coach Kelle Shiflett moves into a program very good the past five years, but hit hard by graduation. Sophomore Leah Thompson and senior Megan Richards anchor the midfield. Seniors Katie Herold and Erin Fenton will be looked to for speed and scoring. Freshman Natalie Stratton will play a big defensive role in front of goalie Erin Ott, who must attempt to fill the big shoes of graduated standout Kelsey Hecker.
5. LAFAYETTE (5-8-1, 1-7-1). Christopher Newport University men's assistant Shawn Trueblood, a former Lafayette boys star, counts M Catie Savarese, M Carson Pokorny, D Peyton Kilgore and D Grace McComber among numerous returners. If the Rams avoid last year's injury jinx, they should make a big move in the standings.
6. YORK (11-3-1, 8-1). The six starters the Falcons lost from their BRD runner-up team were all-district selections. Midfielders Michelle Shine, Hannah Elford and Katie Larson, along with fellow sophomore GK Trinity Choice, combine with junior D Madison Dillard to give the Falcons a nucleus around which to rebuild.
7.POQUOSON (4-9-1, 3-5-1). With eight starters returning, led by F Camille Freeman and M Morgan Ayers – both all-district selections – the Islanders could jump up the standings. Poppy Crawshaw and goalie MaKenzie Dunagan lead a solid defense on a team that should benefit from the presence of nine seniors.
8. SMITHFIELD (4-7-2, 3-5-1). Packers coach Jack Zamora believes freshman Mikala Dean and returner Breonna Hall should combine to increase scoring. Center-midfielders Dekedre McGee and Kiley Machart will set the table for them. Zamora expects the defense to be good in front of new goalkeeper Sarah Hancock.
9. NEW KENT (8-6-1, 3-6). With seven starters back, Trojans coach Cathy Anderson is optimistic. Among the veterans are defenders Taylor James, Megan Evans, Elizabeth Heath, midfielders Sydney Griffith, Caitlin McCaughan and Rachel Byers, and forward Lynsey Harris. Developing scorers and the attack will be a focus.
10. BRUTON (1-10, 0-9-0). New coach Jae Kim inherits only three varsity returners: Naya Samuels, Tori McCurdy and Vanessa Beltran. With only 28 players total, Kim says he'll practice the JV and varsity together often and emphasize technical and tactical work to improve the program for the future.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.