Player of the Year: Akira Fitzgerald, Loyola
The senior closed out a stellar four-year career in typical fashion: posting a shutout over 100 minutes of soccer to lead the No. 1 Dons to a share of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown with a scoreless tie against Mount St. Joseph. An All-America selection who made the All-Metro team in three of his four years, Fitzgerald had all the tools of a solid goalkeeper, starting with sound technical play, smart decision-making, fine distribution and vocal leadership as a two-year captain. In staking claim to the No. 1 spot, the Dons finished the season with a 15-2-6 mark, with Fitzgerald posting 11 shutouts, allowing just 12 goals and turning back 108 shots. "It's hard to put into words what he's meant to the program. Along with his fine goalie skills, he brings a lot of presence in the back and so many intangibles, like giving the guys in front of him so much confidence," Loyola coach Kyle Swords said. Fitzgerald, who will play at Wake Forest next year, saved his best for the conference playoffs. In the semifinal round, he blanked defending league champion McDonogh for a third time this season through overtime, and then made a key save and kicked in the game-winning goal in the deciding penalty kick shootout. In the championship game, Fitzgerald had seven saves to keep a dangerous Mount St. Joseph offense in check and help Loyola gain a share of the crown, the program's second. Some of the biggest compliments that came Fitzgerald's way over the course of the season came from the conference's opposing coaches, who had the arduous task of devising plans to score goals against him.
Coach of the Year: Ed DeVincent, Liberty
The Liberty boys soccer program had reached the state semifinal round two of the previous three seasons. This year, in DeVincent's 10th season, the Lions broke through with a 1-0 win over Hammond to capture the Class 2A crown. The win completed an unbeaten season for the fourth-ranked Lions, who finished with a 15-0-3 mark that included a 5-0-1 record in Carroll County to capture top honors there as well. The team overcame a number of obstacles, as DeVincent was faced with the task of replacing eight graduated starters, and there were a number of injuries at the start of the season. It wasn't until the seventh game that he had his 11 state title game starters in place. An early season, 1-1 tie with River Hill, which went on to capture its fourth straight state title in Class 3A, showed the Lions that they could play with any team. "A lot of people have asked me what the difference was from this year and others, and I think it came down to chemistry and leadership with this group," said DeVincent, who has a 114-37-8 career mark. "To be able to keep it all together over the course of the season with the injuries and adversity, it showed the team's heart and character. At the end of each game, we had a cheer and the final word said was 'family' -- they considered themselves as family and it showed over the course of the year."
Mostafa Ebrahimnejad, Hammond
Smooth and creative as the team's offensive catalyst, the gifted junior welcomed the expanded role that was asked of him in his third varsity season to carry the No. 10 Golden Bears (11-3-5) to their first state title game. Smart with and without the ball, Ebrahimnejad brought a presence to the field that didn't go unnoticed. Equally adept at finishing and setting up teammates, Ebrahimnejad finished the season with a team-high 12 goals and five assists. The offensive production was a significant increase from the five goals and six assists he finished with as a sophomore. Hammond coach Rick Bantz also said his standout player brought unique leadership qualities with the ability to step up when called on or sit back and follow the team's seniors.
Andrew Gillis, Perry Hall
Combining hard work, speed and a natural scoring knack, the senior standout led the No. 8 Gators to an 11-2 season with a team-high 14 goals and eight assists. Gillis scored big goals on a regular basis and was equally effective in setting up teammates when the added attention came his way. The first-team All-State selection was both consistent and timely with his goal production, scoring in 11 of the team's 13 games. Included was a goal in the Gators' win over No. 1 Loyola, two goals against Archbishop Curley and a three-goal performance against Baltimore County rival Hereford. Gillis will play soccer at UMBC next fall.
Tyrone Hall, Mount St. Joseph
The junior's breakthrough season played an integral part in the No. 2 Gaels (19-4-4) earning a share of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown this season. Fast, quick and possessing dazzling ball skills, Hall was a constant threat, with the ability to turn around defenders and finish off scoring chances. In his second season of varsity, the first-team All-State selection finished with seven goals and seven assists.
Ernest Jackson, Calvert Hall
A three-year starter and team captain, Jackson proved to be a versatile player for the Cardinals as an outside back this season. A forward and midfielder in his first two seasons, the second-team All-State selection showed an ability to shut down opposing strikers while also giving the No. 5 Cardinals (17-3-3) an offensive boost by effectively moving forward. Calvert Hall coach Andy Moore said Jackson's endless energy and approach to the game were infectious. With four goals and two assists this season to help lead the Cardinals to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals, Jackson finished his career with 16 goals and 12 assists.
Justin Kondos, Arundel
Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year clearly stood out in a crowd, both for his 6-foot-4 frame and his offensive prowess, as he closed out a four-year career with a 13-goal, nine-assist effort that led the No. 12 Wildcats (13-3-2) to a share of the county crown as well as a second straight Class 4A East regional final appearance. Making a smooth transition from the midfield to forward this season, the senior standout provided a fine target up front to create chances on his own or pass off to teammates. The first-team All-State selection always drew additional coverage, which opened space for the Wildcats' talented midfield corps. Kondos finished with 26 goals and 20 assists in his four years and will play soccer at Georgetown next fall.
Tyler Meade, River Hill
Precise and dynamic inside the penalty area, the senior co-captain emerged as River Hill's primary goal scorer, helping the No. 6 Hawks (14-1-2) gain a share of the Class 3A state title. With a good chunk of last year's offensive production lost to graduation, a priority for the Hawks this season was to find open space for Meade in the offensive third. He responded favorably -- he was able to create on his own or collect a pass and quickly finish -- to notch a team-high 11 goals to go with five assists in his third season as a starter. Meade, a second-team All-State choice, was at his best in the pressure situations, finishing with seven game-winning goals. Included was a late second-half goal against Howard County rival Mount Hebron that lifted the Hawks to a 1-0 win.
Ben Pfau, Mount St. Joseph
The obvious contributions by the senior captain were the 14 goals and eight assists he amassed in leading the Gaels to a share of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown. But there were other things that proved invaluable to the Gaels, including leadership, work rate and effort on the field. Chosen as Baltimore City's Player of the Year and to the All-State first team, Pfau added additional layers to his game to help the program claim its second conference crown. More of a playmaker last season when he registered 13 assists without scoring a goal, the three-year starter relied on tenacity, vision and a cannon shot this season to take over games.
Jon Ports, McDonogh
No player in the metro area was better at multi-tasking than Ports, who served as a defensive anchor and an offensive catalyst for the No. 3 Eagles. The senior captain, who led McDonogh to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals and a 15-6-1 mark, had the entire field covered with a high work rate that was matched by his skills, game sense and intensity. He scored 10 goals and added eight assists, handled most of the Eagles' free kicks and was the steadying influence of a defense that posted 14 shutouts. Selected a first-team All-American and first-team All-State, Ports has committed to Maryland next fall.
Matt Schroeder, Loyola
Relying on substance over flash, Schroeder took a smart, mistake-free approach to his center back position in helping lead the No. 1 Dons (15-2-6) to a share of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown. Loyola coach Kyle Swords showed confidence in his senior co-captain at the start of the season when he went from using four defenders in back to just three. Schroeder, a second-team All-State pick, excelled as the lone center back, reading the game well to cover the added ground as well as handling any breakdowns around him. The Dons benefited from the heart and desire that Schroeder showed, whether he was winning a tackle, chasing down an opponent or passing on encouraging words to teammates.
Matt Stara, River Hill
The senior standout has the rare distinction of being a starter on four straight state title teams, as the Hawks shared this year's Class 3A crown with Towson. Along with bringing sturdy play and strong leadership to the back line, Stara, the Howard County Player of the Year, had a long throw-in that wreaked havoc in front of the opponent's goal. A number of his metro-area-high 24 assists came from the long throws, with a number of others coming on precise direct kicks. The first-team All-State performer also added six goals. Considering West Virginia among other colleges, Stara ended his four-year career with 11 goals and 47 assists.
Taylor VanBrackle, Liberty
The program's all-time leading scorer worked hard to get back on the field following knee surgery in April, and it paid a huge dividend as he led the No. 4 Lions to their first state title and an unbeaten 15-0-3 mark. Relentless in the penalty area with a quick first touch and corner-finding shot, the senior captain, who earned first-team All-State honors, scored 13 goals and added seven assists this season to bring his four-year total to 43 goals and 32 assists. VanBrackle's biggest goal of the season was also his last, an overtime winner in a 1-0 state semifinal win over Queen Anne's that sent the Lions to their first state title game.
B.J. Quigley Archbishop Curley, junior, forward
Paul Schuit Winters Mill, senior, forward
Taylor Young Severna Park, senior, forward
Christian Barreiro Calvert Hall, sophomore, midfield
Chris Lorenzet C. Milton Wright, senior, midfield
Aaron Wheeler Patapsco, senior, midfield
Zach Barnett Mount Hebron, junior, defense
Tim McCormick Broadneck, senior, defense
Wade McHugh McDonogh, senior, defense
Paul Seegren Liberty, senior, defense
Andrew Gisriel Towson, senior, goalie
Matt Moss River Hill, senior, goalie
Note: Teams selected by Glenn Graham after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun