Tigers look to move past loss of three All-County play­ers

All-County POTY Reid out for sea­son with leg in­jury

Cecil Whig - - & - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

The Tigers will have huge cleats to fill this soc­cer sea­son.

The grad­u­a­tion of a pair of All-County play­ers and the loss of the reign­ing Player of the Year to an off-sea­son, sea­son-end­ing in­jury will force the Ris­ing Sun girls’ soc­cer team to look to new play­mak­ers if it hopes to recre­ate the suc­cess it ex­pe­ri­enced last sea­son.

Three-time All-County mid­fielder Jackie Bar­bon and four-time All-County de­fender Va­lerie Bragg (first team All-Ch­e­sa­peake) have both de­parted af­ter stand­out se­nior sea­sons. The Tigers will also have to play the en­tire year with­out Teresa Reid, whose se­nior sea­son has been lost due to a leg in­jury suf­fered over the sum­mer dur­ing a re­gional youth de­vel­op­men­tal pro­gram.

The dy­namic mid­fielder was com­ing off a ju­nior cam­paign in which she recorded nine goals and seven as­sists while lead­ing the Ris­ing Sun of­fense through a chal­leng­ing Ch­e­sa­peake Di­vi­sion sched­ule, earn­ing both first­team All-Ch­e­sa­peake Di­vi­sion and All-County Player of the Year.

“That’s a big hit to our team,” Ris­ing Sun coach Dy­lan Ai­man said of Reid. “It’s go­ing to be a tremen­dous loss. Not just be­cause of her abil­ity—she’s a game changer no-doubt—but her lead­er­ship at prac­tice and in games. It’s not the best way to start a sea­son. When you lose one of your best play­ers it’s dif­fi­cult.”

Last sea­son, the Tigers (84-1) ended with just one win in di­vi­sion but swept their Ce­cil County op­po­nents, in­clud­ing a shutout over North East in the open­ing round of the 2A East Re­gion Sec­tion I play­offs. Ris­ing Sun later fell to even­tual state cham­pion Fall­ston, 2-1, in the fol­low­ing round, mark­ing the sec­ond­straight year and the third time in the past four post­sea­sons that the Tigers lost to the Cougars in the play­offs.

Ai­man will be tasked with ral­ly­ing the Tigers around a new lead­er­ship core and guid­ing the team once again through the up­per di­vi­sion and a tough re­gion.

“I think we’ll still do very well in Ce­cil County. I think play­ing in the up­per di­vi­sion, con­fer­ence wise, the Ch­e­sa­peake is go­ing to be a tough go,” he said. “I think we’ll be com­pet­i­tive.”

Ju­nior mid­fielder Jackie Ay­ers, who earned Al­lCounty honor­able men­tion last sea­son, is ex­pected to take over for Reid as the field gen­eral. Mean­while, ju­nior for­ward Mikaela Berg, who earned All-County hon­ors in 2015, will slide from for­ward to de­fense to take over for Bragg.

“Mikaela is a very, very good player, so as far as that switch goes, we’re giv­ing up the at­tack­ing side but we’re cer­tainly so­lid­i­fy­ing the de- fense,” Ai­man said.

Se­nior Kenze Stock­slager will be the start­ing right back and se­nior Al­li­son Back­ert will be the start­ing left back, giv­ing Ris­ing Sun a trio of vet­eran play­ers on the back end. They will be joined by sopho­more keeper Kira Wat­son, who earned All-County hon­ors last sea­son.

Se­nior for­wards Jillian Seay and Cassidy Boyd are ex­pected to form the of­fen­sive front for the Tigers.

“The goal I think right now is to dom­i­nate Ce­cil County, be com­pet­i­tive in the Ch­e­sa­peake Di­vi­sion and of course, come play­off time, get as far as we can,” Ai­man said. “[Sweep­ing the county] is some­thing we’ve al­ways hung our hat on and are real proud of. But ev­ery year the dif­fer­ent [schools] put out qual­ity teams and it’s al­ways a chal­lenge for us.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Ris­ing Sun se­nior Mikaela Berg, left, who earned All-County hon­ors last sea­son at for­ward, will move to de­fense in 2016.

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