Woodland and Cass played competitively despite facing stiff opposition from their region and nonregion opponents. Adairsville tied a school record with an 11-win season.
While it may not have been a banner year for Bartow County's girls soccer teams, they demonstrated once again that they could play against Georgia's best.
Cartersville faced five teams that were ranked in Georgia's Top 10 at season's end. When the dust had settled on their year, the Lady Purple Hurricanes' losses were to the state's top-ranked team (Allatoona), third-, seventh- and eighth-ranked squads. Among their wins was a 1-0 defeat of Riverwood, which finished as the state's No. 9 team.
The Lady Canes earned a 10-7 record, including an 8-2 record in their region.
They did it with a suffocating defense that came together in their fourth game and made them a team few wanted to tangle with. After starting 0-3, they went 10-4, eight of those games shutouts, losing only to the state's elite teams during that 14-game stretch. The Lady Cats helped their cause by limiting their opposition to 15 goals, with a season-long total of 22. Their shooters found net 38 times.
Their season extended into the state playoffs, where the Lady Canes concluded their year with a thriller -- a 4-3 loss to Oconee County, which finished the year as the state's No. 3-ranked team. That loss was not earned until the home team roared the length of the field for a miracle score with just seconds remaining on the clock.
Woodland once again played a tough-as-nails schedule, taking on 12 teams with winning records. Also, the Lady Wildcats stepped up in classification for three of their contests. The Lady 'Cats (7-10-1) added a nice feather to their caps in coming as close as possible to claiming the mythical Bartow County title by shutting out both the Lady Purple Hurricanes and Lady Colonels, 1-0 and 2-0, respectively.
On the season, Woodland held their opponents to goose eggs five times, allowing 36 goals while scoring 26 times.
The Lady Colonels were stronger, too, compiling a 6-11-1 won/loss record in a season when 11 of their foes sported winning records.
Cass scored 33 goals on the season, held four foes scoreless and allowed 64 goals.
Adairsville tied its record for most victories on the way to an 11-6-1 season. The Lady Tigers' goalkeeper was credited with allowing just 20 goals, the fewest in a season, while branding foes with the most shutouts, 9, to scratch her name into the school record book.
Not only did they step up in competitiveness, all four teams improved their win total from a year ago. That success was built on the quality of play from athletes who make up The Daily Tribune News All-County Girls Soccer Team.
Player of the year
-- Emily Moore of Woodland, the Daily Tribune News' player of the year. Head coach Kyle Morgan said having Moore allowed Woodland "to play a three-back system (most teams play at least four) most of the year against very tough competition." He said Moore was a major contributor and leader. "She brings a mental and physical toughness to our team that is unmatched," Morgan said. He said his defensive star played banged up most of the year. Moore, who was team captain the past two years, improved from a year ago due to her work ethic, he said. That's saying something since she was the county defensive player of the year last year. Moore had 2 goals, 1 assist and 8 saves in goal. Emily Moore was voted second team all-region by coaches. Moore also plays club ball, including the highest level of club ball in the county. Her club team, Southern Soccer Academy's 95 Elite Team, claimed the Georgia Cup in winning the state championship for U17 girls players.
-- Amber Fuller of Woodland. Fuller was a standout for Woodland, enabling the Wildcats to play competitively in a region whose top four teams all advanced this year in the playoffs. Coach Morgan describes her as the "best outside midfielder in the county by far. [She is able] to play with both feet, is a tireless worker and has creative touches in small spaces." Morgan said she has "a good understanding of the game and has gotten better every year." Fuller also has the highest GPA on team.
-- Audrey Nix of Cass. Nix, a senior, was a four-year starter at Cass and received its Colonel Award. "Although Audrey did not have one of her better years due to injury, she contributed as a team leader and team captain," head coach Phil Phillips said. "She scored two goals and had seven assists." He said she played a lot of defensive midfield and was very much a part of starting the team's attacks for the offense. Audrey has always been very coachable player and Phillips noted she will continue her soccer career at Truett-McConnell College.
-- Stefanie Will of Cartersville. Will was named her team's offensive player of the year and helped the Lady Purple Hurricanes' cause with nine goals and nine assists. Head coach Roger Lowe described her as "mentally tough. She practiced and played 110 percent." She had "great ball control" when dribbling and also had "a hard accurate shot."
-- Nisa Ayers of Adairsville. The Lady Tiger found the net eight times and was credited with five assists. Lady Tiger head coach Dave Sexauer described her as a "very tough and determined player with a strong left foot. She was a leader on and off the field."
-- Meredith Holmes of Cartersville. The center defender was voted Lady Cane's defensive player of the year. She was credited with five goals and seven assists. Holmes, a senior, was team leader and captain. "She was a great defensive player and had great ball control," coach Lowe said.
-- Rachel Dodson of Woodland. Coach Morgan described her as "very athletic, a good ball-winner and goes into tackles." He said she faced her foes' best players. "She was often matched up with high level club soccer players," Morgan added. He said Dodson "gained confidence on the ball and was able to get forward into the attack more as the season progressed." He said her defensive skill was another reason Woodland was able to play their three-back system in the back. Dodson was credited with 10 saves in goal. She also plays club ball for the Rome Arsenal.
-- Mallary Hedden of Cass, the Daily Tribune News' offensive player of the year. The sophomore, a two-year starter at Cass, was honored as its top offensive player. Phillips said Hedden worked hard to improve her play throughout the year. "She was our leading scorer this season, scoring 15 goals and having 5 assists for goals. Mallary is a player who truly loves the game and works hard trying to improve her skill level. She is one of those players who will always give you a 100 percent during practice and in the game."
-- Cassidy Greene of Adairsville. The offensive juggernaut scored a Bartow County high 20 goals (34 percent of the team's goals) and dished out four assists. "Her quickness and agility allowed her to win matchups," coach Sexauer said. He said her success was augmented by being part of a team that worked hard to continually improve throughout the season. "They believed in each other and their ability to be successful."
-- Stephanie Hicks of Woodland. Hicks led the team in scoring with eight goals and tied for the lead in assists with four. Morgan described her as "very fast, athletic and able to play with both feet." She was "willing and able to play wherever needed both this year and throughout her career." Hicks was named to first team all-region by coaches. She plays club ball for the Cobb Strikers. She will play at the next level at Agnes Scott.
-- Kaeli McDermott of Cartersville. McDermott, center midfielder, received the CHS Coach's Award, scoring six goals and seven assists. She was part of a Cartersville offensive team that essentially reinvented itself into a state playoff team a month into the season by controlling the ball and lessening the pressure on the defensive side of the ball. Lowe said she also was a great team leader, noting she will be playing at the next level, at Young Harris, next year.
-- Sydney James of Cartersville. James, voted the school's MVP, allowed 1.47 goals for the season. After the team's first three games, that average dropped to .9 when eight shutouts were figured into the equation. "She was the best goalkeeper I saw all year," Lowe, her head coach, said. Lowe added she was an integral part of the improved defensive play that changed Cartersville's game. "After the first three games of the year, our team came together. We played good defense. Sydney James and our defenders changed the atmosphere of the team. Our midfielders found out how to move the ball down the field. Scoring was difficult at times, but in the end we became a soccer team that no one wanted to play."
Honorable mention: -- Adairsville: Emily Sexauer, midfielder, Becca Ferguson, goalkeeper, Caitlin Berkenkamp, defender; Cartersville: Molly Acuff, outside defender; Anna Phillips, outside midfielder; Mia Robinson, striker; Cass: Katelyn Marsala, defender, Katelynn Harbeke, striker/midfielder, Madison Scoggins, midfielder, Camey Kirkland, defender, Bieanna Heaton, striker; Woodland: Brooke Hummel, midfielder, Destiny Wood, Hailie Parshall (centermid), and Alicia Velasquez, goalkeeper.