Excellence is expected in soccer around Fayette, but, even by those exacting standards, what happened in 2019 was truly exceptional.
All 10 teams, both boys and girls, qualified for the state playoffs, seven advanced to the Elite Eight, five made it to the Final Four, and four reached the state championship, with McIntosh sweeping both crowns. Truly, no place in the state runs soccer quite like Fayette.
Two tremendous talents share top honors for the boys. Baba Agbaje of McIntosh and Ryan Shanahan of Starr’s Mill are Boys Co-Players of the Year.
Agbaje, a senior, finished the year with 12 goals and 5 assists, but he earns a share of the prize for elevating his play in the postseason, including a pair of goals in the championship game.
“Who had a bigger impact on their team’s success in the playoffs than Baba?” asked his head coach, Bunky Colvin. “No one, in my opinion.”
Likewise, Shanahan, a senior midfielder, was the engine that made the Panthers go, racking up 11 goals and 6 assists.
“I think Shanahan and Baba were the most important to their teams,” said Colvin.
Emerging from a crowded field, Jolie Ryff of Whitewater is the Girls Player of the Year. Fronting a young team, Ryff, a two-time captain, propelled the Wildcats from early-season struggles all the way to the state championship game. The Georgia State signee posted 20 goals and 3 assists on the season.
“She was truly a difference maker for us,” said her coach, Randy Hayes.
Two leaders also share coaching honors on the boys side. Mike Hanie of Starr’s Mill and John Bernard of Whitewater are Boys Co-Coaches of the Year. Hanie, the legendary coach of the Panthers, coached his final season and took his team to a stellar 19-3-1 mark with a runner-up finish. Bernard and his underdog Wildcats entered the playoffs as a three seed, but they ran through the competition to a Final Four berth.
The leader of the champions holds the crown on the girls side. Casey Kreitner of McIntosh is the Girls Coach of the Year. In her first year as head coach, Kreitner and her Lady Chiefs blew away the competition, posting a sterling 20-1-1 record. Her squad ramped up the intensity in the postseason, outscoring the opposition 38-1, including a 7-0 win in the state championship game.
Jacobo Velez of Starr’s Mill is the Boys Freshman of the Year. Velez emerged as a force on the backend for the Panthers, notching 20 starts as an attacking outside back.
Standing out among an excellent batch of first-year talent, Bailey Wagenknecht of McIntosh and Taylor Youmans of Fayette County are the Girls Co-Freshman of the Year. Wagenknecht quickly made her case as one of the best players in any class, racking up a ridiculous 28 goals with 10 assists, despite missing three games as she completed basketball season. Youmans piled up an unbelievable 36 goals with 11 assists, accounting for 61 percent of the Tigers goals, earning Region Player of the Year honors.
The Boys All-County First Team is loaded with talent.
The forwards are Mason Harris of McIntosh, Ty Marshall of Whitewater, and Mario Moreno of Sandy Creek. Harris, a sophomore, led the Chiefs with 16 goals, along with 6 assists. Marshall, a sophomore, led the Wildcats with 13 goals. Moreno, a senior, racked up up 23 goals and 11 assists to earn Region Player of the Year honors.
The midfield is made up of Aaron Hauck of Fayette County, Noah Pavel of Starr’s Mill, and McIntosh’s Tommy Kim and Craig McIlwraith. Hauck, a senior, racked up 13 goals and 6 assists, earning Region Co-Player of the Year honors. Pavel, a senior, racked up 14 goals and 5 assists. Kim, a sophomore, controlled the rhythm of the team as a stellar defensive midfielder, adding 4 goals and 4 assists. McIlwraith, a junior, posted 7 goals and 2 assists, and his coach calls him one of the state’s most skilled players.
The defense consists of Blake Helms of Starr’s Mill, Whitewater’s Grant Chenette, Fayette County’s John Lewis, and McIntosh’s Erik Malasek and Brandon Fambro. Helms, a senior, led a defense that posted 11 shutouts. Chenette, a senior, was an impenetrable force on the right side for the Cats. Lewis, a senior, was a three-year captain who anchored the Tigers’ back line. Malasek, a senior, was capable of taking the opposing team’s star out of the game. Fambro, a senior, earned All-State honors as one of Georgia’s most unbeatable defenders.
The keeper is Jonathan Bennett of McIntosh. Bennett, a junior, posted a sterling 0.87 goals against average in leading the Chiefs to the crown.
Rounding out the first team is a quartet of players that are hard to define with just one position, Whitewater’s Jordan Outhavong, Fayette County’s Owen Mikoy, and McIntosh’s Bailey Lopez and Luke Giordano. Outhavong, a senior, notched 4 goals and 21 assists out on the wing and also stepped in the goal as a keeper in high-pressure PK situations. Mikoy starred at midfield and center back, posting 16 goals and 7 assists. Lopez, a senior, played and excelled all over the pitch for the Chiefs, tallying 9 goals and 2 assists. Giordano, a junior, put up 3 goals and 4 assists while playing defense, midfield, and forward.
The Girls All-County First Team is an awesome group.
The forwards are Tariah Miller of McIntosh, Sara Evans of Starr’s Mill, and Kristyn Spears of Fayette County. Miller, a senior, tallied 22 goals and 10 assists. Evans racked up 21 goals and 15 assists, accounting for 36 of the Panthers’ 82 goals. Spears, a sophomore, posted 16 goals and 9 assists.
The midfield is made up of Sophia Bernardi of Starr’s Mill, Madison Wright of Whitewater, and McIntosh’s Mackenzie Rohn and Keara Collins. Bernardi racked up 15 goals and 9 assists. Wright posted 6 goals and 2 assists despite missing part of the season due to injury. Rohn, a senior, notched 10 goals and 18 assists and was voted the Chiefs’ MVP. Collins, a freshman, joined the team late after basketball season and still managed to tally 8 goals and 12 assists.
The defenders are McIntosh’s Skylar Dzenis, Whitewater’s Bailey Vessell, Sandy Creek’s Hannah Ohlmeier, and Starr’s Mill’s Rachel Davison and Mary Jane Gagliano. Dzenis, a junior, posted 7 goals and 2 assists as a durable force who rarely ever left the pitch. Vessell notched 7 goals and 2 assists as a top defender and added one save in goal. Ohlmeier posted 5 goals from set pieces as was named Region Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. Davison was a team captain for the Panthers, tallying 4 goals and 1 assist. Gagliano posted a goal for the Panthers.
The keepers are Stephanie Yi of McIntosh and Anna Agi of Whitewater. Yi, a senior, pitched 14 shutouts for the Chiefs. Agi racked up a school single-season record 126 saves along with 7 shutouts.
A heap of talent spills onto the All-County Second Team.
On the boys side, the forwards are Jack Baker of Starr’s Mill and Dillon Gee of Whitewater. Baker, a senior, came back with a bang after missing his junior year due to injury, tallying 9 goals and 3 assists. Gee, a junior, notched 3 goals and 6 assists.
The midfield is made up of Will Anong of Starr’s Mill, Cesar Colindres of Sandy Creek, Ian Brunet of Whitewater and Fayette County’s Andy Hernandez and Uriel Benitez. Anong, a junior, posted 4 goals and 3 assists as the Panthers’ glue in the center midfield. Colindres, a junior, notched 9 goals and 12 assists. Brunet, a freshman, notched 5 goals and 1 assist. Hernandez, a senior, posted 8 goals and 16 assists. Benitez notched 9 goals and 5 assists.
The defense is composed of Austin Morris of Starr’s Mill, John Suess of Sandy Creek, McIntosh’s Arman Ostadazim and Dylan Boerstler, and Whitewater’s Brennen Schmitt and Mauricio Cruz. Morris, a sophomore, was adept on both ends, scoring 4 goals and 5 assists. Suess, a senior, led the Patriot defense to seven shutouts. Ostadazim, a senior, was a true leader for the state champion Chiefs. Boerstler, a junior, kept opponents on their toes with the ability to attack. Schmitt, a sophomore, notched 3 goals. Cruz, a junior, was the vocal leader of the Wildcat defense.
The keeper is Michael Lantz of Starr’s Mill. Lantz, a senior, returned to the pitch after a year away and posted a sterling 1.0 goals against average.
The girls second team is chock full of talent.
Quin Nowicki of Starr’s Mill sets up at forward. Despite missing five weeks, Nowicki posted 6 goals and 2 assists.
The midfield is made up of Madison Heimbold of Whitewater, Lindsey Cagle of Fayette County, and Starr’s Mill’s Darby Olive and Sofia Varmeziar. Heimbold posted 6 goals and 6 assists as a holding midfielder. Olive notched 7 goals and 7 assists. Varmeziar put up 5 goals and 8 assists.
The defense consists of Fayette County’s Daina Dove, Sandy Creek’s Kayla Alston, McIntosh’s Katelyn Galbraith, and Starr’s Mill’s Chloe Spradlin and Kaleigh Ward. Dove, a senior, earned All-Region honors as the Tigers top defender. Galbraith, a junior, posted 9 goals and 3 assists. Spradlin was a team leader who handled corners and free kicks for the Panthers. Ward helped the defense post 10 shutouts.
The keepers are Starr’s Mill’s Jacqueline Reardon, Sandy Creek’s Natali Vera, and Fayette County’s Kaylin Belwood. Reardon posted a 1.16 goals against average with 8 shutouts.
Our Lady of Mercy’s trio of Rhys Lawlor, EJ Ohiweri, and Sergio Cornejo also earn All-County recognition on the boys side, while Lady Bobcats Mallory Hennie-Roed, Sophia Launay, and Abigail Barrantes get the nod.
To see more photos from soccer season, click here.