SANDPOINT — For the second year in a row, Sandpoint junior target forward Riley Walkington was named Most Valuable Player, as the 4A All-Inland Empire League girls soccer team was announced recently, as voted on by the league’s coaches.
Walkington (13 goals/four assists) joins junior defender Yeo Yarnell (two goals/two assists), junior defender Jezza Hutto (two goals/five assists), senior mid Hadley Marshall (four goals/six assists), senior mid Rachel Meyer (one assist), and senior forward Casey Shaha (13 goals/two assists) on the all-league team, which finished second at state.
Bulldog head coach Conor Baranski on what each player did to earn a spot on the team:
n Walkington: “For the second year in a row, the other IEL coaches were unanimous in their vote for Riley as the MVP. In their words, she is a game changer and is one of the most dangerous attacking players that they play against. I think this is really cool for Riley, because these coaches who are our rivals are the ones pushing for her to get MVP. She has dedicated herself to self-improvement and I know that she is completely dedicated to the team’s success, rather than just focusing on her own. I was most impressed with her improved passing ability this year. She’s becoming a total attacking player, and that’s really rare at this level. One highlight from her season, in my opinion, was her hat trick against Post Falls. She completely took that game over with her determination, grit and skill.”
n Yarnell: “Yeo is one of the most consistent players I have ever coached. She is also one of the best 1v1 defenders I have ever coached. More times than I can count, she has completely shut down our opponents’ most dangerous attackers with her speed, pace, awareness, anticipation and overall understanding of the game. Like a truly good defender, Yeo can get forward on attack as well. She had two goals from around 30 yards out this season, and contributed on attack whenever I asked or needed her to go forward. Every game and practice she works hard for the team, tries to improve and will do whatever is asked of her.”
n Hutto: “Jezza is a fantastic defender. Many times throughout the season she was able to shut down a talented forward with her speed. We have a talented squad, but we could not have played the aggressive formation we played this year without Jezza. I know Jezza wanted to get forward more throughout the year, she was still able to do that at times, evidenced specifically by the District Championship where she got a goal and an assist, and then in the state semifinal as well. Jezza is one of the toughest tacklers I have ever coached, and on that particular occasion, (Lake City coach) Matt Ruchti looked to his team and said ‘that’s how you tackle.’
n Marshall: “Hadley took on her role as a leader this year by really stepping up on the field. I thought she commanded the midfield in numerous games throughout the season. Hadley’s strengths and talents on the field can often go unnoticed to someone who does not know the game well. She reads passing lanes better than anyone I have ever coached so she doesn’t have to make plays that often get fans hyped up, because she cuts out the danger before it happens. She also was integral on attack this year. I’m really proud of her to have her best season come as a senior, in a really composed, mature style of play.”
n Meyer: “Rachel was tasked with providing a tough barrier in the midfield so our three defenders didn’t have to defend as high. Rachel is good at reading the game and cutting out dangerous passing lanes. That leadership in the middle of the field was evident in many games, and I loved watching her shut down some of our opponents who have committed to Division 1 colleges. I told her numerous times this year that it was really cool to see her pulling different moves than I’d ever seen from her in her previous three years on varsity. She came into the season as fit as I’ve ever seen her, and she reaped the rewards for that hard work and preparation.”
n Shaha: “Casey proved difficult to defend for a lot of our opponents this year. Our attack was far more ruthless this year than in years past. Her timing, the angles of her runs, her ability to glide past defenders, and her finishing were all on display this year. Casey’s improvement from her sophomore year when she made varsity to this year is absolutely momentous. I know that her goal this year was to score a bunch of goals, and she obviously achieved that. She was also very consistent, scoring early in the season and then scoring four goals in three games at state. One highlight was scoring the penalty in the state championship. I absolutely loved the confidence she had to step up in one of the most pressurized situations she’s ever been in as a soccer player, and to bury it in the net, tying the game for us at that point.”
4A All-IEL girls soccer team
MVP — Riley Walkington, Spt.
Newcomer of the Year — Ava Jakich-Kunze, Mos.
Coach of the Year — Brandon Schreiner, Mos.
ALL-LEAGUE — Hannah Broyles, Mos; Sofi Schnepf, LL; Darby McDevitt, LL; Yeo Yarnell, Spt; Jezza Hutto, Spt; Hadley Marshall, Spt; Rachell Meyer, Spt; Makayla Higbee, LL; Claire Mullin, Mos; Casey Shaha, Spt; Kira Vierling, Mos.