Coming off a Conference 12 Championship and a 5A South region appearance, Matoaca boys soccer will look to quickly reload and fend off Meadowbrook once again for a championship. Last year’s 13-2-3 season culminated in a defensive battle, a 1-0 loss to Hermitage.
Three key components of the team are gone: one of those is Davis Topping, Conference 12 Player of the year and 2nd Team All-State honoree. Also departing is fellow All-State honoree and defender David Kim, and first team all-conference 12 midfielder Alec Sadler. While all these pieces were absolutely key to the Warriors’ success, there will be players that take their places on the field.
A pair of players both likely to play American football at the next level will be stalwarts in defender Justin Dyke and goal keeper John Gardiner. The duo forms perhaps the best football kicker and punter duo in the state. Dyke got it done on the soccer field last year, earning 2nd team all-state honors. Gardiner showed his affinity for clutch saves, especially in the Conference 12 tournament.
First up to replace the production by Topping and Sadler will be a sophomore, Michael Follis who’s shown great potential as a midfielder, and Thomas Jeffrey, who played at Manchester last season and returns to his home district. Both will be bridges for the offense, but will be counted on to generate offense on a team that will be strong defensively yet again.
“We’re going to defend first,” said coach Justin Parker. “We’ve always had defensive teams. We’re organized and have great toughness,” Parker continued. “We’ll have to find new ways to score this season.”
Matoaca showed well in both of their scrimmages, defeating Henrico 2-0 and Powhatan 3-0. They’ll open the season Thursday, March 24 on the road at Colonial Heights in defense of the Conference 12 crown. Prince George and the Monarchs should be their biggest challengers for the title, and the always-interesting rivalry game with Thomas Dale is quite a big contest for both schools and all players involved.
Matoaca girls’ soccer finished in 4th place in Conference 12 last season, ahead of L.C. Bird and Meadowbrook. They too, like the boys must replace this talent. Coach Erin Bell has been shuffling different line-ups, looking for the best way to deploy her arsenal of weapons in 2016.
Twins, Kara and Kayla Hevener roamed and controlled the midfield for the Warriors last season. They provided a unique combination of being left-footed and right-footed, giving them both an advantage on their side of the field. Perhaps the heart and soul of the team in sweeper and skilled defender Kate Broas graduated as well. Bell called her “the back bone of the defense.”
“We’ve had to do some reconfiguring in the back,” Bell said. “All three of the girls we lost started all four years on varsity, it’s been quite an adjustment figuring out our new line-up.”
The two line-up will contain many familiar faces, as well as some that will be counted on to step up in the absence of the Heveners and Broas. Kelly Reynolds will look to fill one of the gaps left in the middle of the field.
Returning for their senior seasons are Katy Wildeus and Rachael Honsinger and both will be center mid-fielders. While Wildeus provides more offense, it will be her and Honsinger’s job to faciliate and spread the ball around to teammates. A big part of Matoaca’s offensive success last season, at the very least in the capacity of scoring was break out player and now sophomore, Maya Pencile, who led the team in scoring.
“She seems to get better every time she touches the ball,” Bell said of Pencile.
Defensively speaking, skilled senior and goalkeeper Maddie Campbell also returns as Matoaca’s guardian of the net. She’s looking to get back to the level of play during her sophomore season where she netted All-Conference 12 first team honors.
Junior Kailey Elder, senior Megan brown and Dominique Frederick will play defense this year for the Warriors alongside Lauren Fryziewicz. Combined, they’ll look to ease the loss of Broas and play as a unit to prevent other teams from getting too many shots on goal.
“I think that with the changes in our conference [the addition of Highland Springs and Varina] that we can finish in the top two in the conference,” said Bell.
That would mean a trip to regionals for Matoaca. Both sets of Warriors will look to make postseason runs in 2016.