Elizabethtown junior Gabby Garcia finished tied for 17th in the state in goals with 37, tied for 27th with 16 assists to give her 90 points, which tied for 14th.
That helped lead the Lady Panthers to a tie for 19th in goals per game at 4.8 and a tie for seventh in goal differential at 3.8 in a 19-3 season that ended in a 5-1 loss to Bethlehem in the 5th Region semifinals.
“Our team has always been so close and that’s one of the things that I love about our program,” Garcia said. “I think that with our program, we always say, ‘Tradition of Excellence’ and I think that we show that on the field. Even if the result isn’t what we want, I think we always show our heart on the field and how hard we work.”
Garcia received four of the eight first-place votes to be named Area Offensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row. It is voted upon by the area coaches and The News-Enterprise sports staff. Garcia finished with 29 points, ahead of Central Hardin senior Brentyn Dodd (23) and Meade County senior Dori Emig (11). Dodd received two first-place votes and Emig and LaRue County sophomore Olivia Hazelwood had one first-place vote each.
“It means a lot to me,” Garcia said of winning the award. “I love soccer and I work really hard at it. It’s always good to be recognized. There’s still improvement that needs to be done. There’s always work to do. I like to look at last season and see the strengths and weaknesses and where I need to get better.”
She also knows the hard work ahead for the Lady Panthers as they look to take the next step to the 5th Region championship and a berth in the state tournament.
“You always have to watch and listen to what your coaches are telling you in how you are playing,” Garcia said. “Coach (Pat) Black is a very good coach. With his coaching style, I really think he brings the best out us out. He motivates us through what he says, also his tactical coaching really helps. He always has a game plan for us to follow and I think we do pretty well in following what coach says.”
Garcia has 59 goals and 28 assists as the Lady Panthers have gone 35-6-1 in the past two seasons.
“I know she has gotten the benefit of getting extra marking, but she helps other players and the team in general by moving the ball away and using other avenues,” Black said. “She definitely has speed, has great ball skills and is able to control and move the ball with speed and change direction. She has adapted well in playing with high-level club teams and playing against high-level players. She’s well versed on both sides of the field.
“As a young player you knew she was gonna be good. She’s such a talented player, but she’s a good, young lady.
“When she goes to the next level where everybody is so much bigger and so much stronger, she definitely has the skills to adapt and she will be a force to be reckoned with at that level, too.”
That place will be Tennessee Tech, where Garcia verbally committed in November.
“I had a couple of school options, so it was important to go on my school visits and see which school was right for me,” she said. “I just really felt that Tennessee Tech was the place I’m supposed to be at. I love the coaches. I love the campus. The program is really good there. I just knew that committing there would be the right decision. It was a goal of mine to be committed during my junior year.
“I am really relieved, you could say, because the process is not really the most fun thing to do. It’s very stressful. In the end though, it was all worth it.”
CO-DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR. Central Hardin’s Victoria Schmit and North Hardin’s Mya Hawkins were used quite differently because of need.
While both played all over the field, it was in far difference capacities.
“My position, outside back, I play a defensive role and I also play an attacking role and I like that,” said Schmit, who will continue playing the game at Spalding University. “I like being on the outside more than being in the middle. Not because we do less on the outside – we do just as much – but I’ve always liked making the overlapping runs and at outside back, I can do that. It’s one of the main jobs. You’re a defender, but you’re also an attacker.”
Hawkins played defense most of the time, but was moved to midfield and up top when Coach Chris Smith needed a boost.
“This year, I got moved around a lot,” she said. “Being a player on the team, you have to do what the coaches want you to do. For being a captain on the team, you have to be a role model and do whatever coach wants you to do to win the game.”
Schmit began her soccer career 10-plus years ago playing center-mid, then became a winger and played forward now and then. She also spent her senior season with the Lady Bruins taking corner kicks.
“I’ve always gravitated to the defending side, and that’s how I became the outside back,” she said. “I like the left side because you can cut in and use your right foot. The goal scorers get a lot of the hype, but you can’t have the goal scoring without the assists or pass or cross that makes the ability to score. With how long I’ve been playing soccer and how long I’ve been playing that position, I know where I’m supposed to be, I know what I’m supposed to do.”
Hawkins was a captain for the Lady Trojans and she said that helped her grow as a player.
“I take being a captain as a big responsibility,” she said. “It shows me that the other players on the team look up to me and they trust me to be put in that position. Being a role model means a lot — having people looking up to you and what you do makes me feel like I’m doing something right, that I’m a good person and a good athlete.
“Sometimes they kind of get upset the way you say it, so you have to find the right way to say it. There’s different ways to talk to everyone, so you have to find those different ways to talk to everyone. It’s not easy, but it’s not hard. It helps me become a better player because I have to know my teammates better. I have to know and understand where they’re coming from so we all can work on the field together better and that makes it a good atmosphere.”
Schmit said her soccer careers have been split between playing club and high school.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without playing club,” she said. “I’m in U18 right now and the team I’m on, we travel a lot — we’ve been to Michigan and Pennsylvania and we’re going to North Carolina — so we see a lot of different teams and different players and that makes you a better player and more prepared to go into college and play.
“Last year, we went to Disney and played there and we were able to play teams from all different parts of the country. And I was in ODP, so I’ve been able to play against players from different countries. I wouldn’t say I’m completely prepared for college because they’re more mature in the game, but I would say I’m one step away.
“High school soccer, for me, was more of a friend thing because that’s where I met a lot of my friends that I’m gonna have for a really long time. Grace (Borgerding) is my best friend and we met playing soccer when we were like 7. I’ve known Destiny (Tharpe) and Brentyn (Dodd) since we were 7, too, and we were on the same team. I have friends like Hallie (Whalen), and Rachel (Price) and Jenna (Bush) and I met them through high school and we’re really good friends.
“For me and Destiny and Brentyn, too, we played as eighth-graders, so we went into high school knowing people and that made the transition easier. It’s not so much about the soccer, it’s about the people you are surrounded by.”
Hawkins will also play at the next level, but she’s still not sure where that will be.
“I like everything about the game. I started when I was 10, so I was kind of behind everybody already,” she said. “I had some good coaches on the way up and they have helped me in a lot of ways. Playing soccer is something I love and I want to continue to do it. Not everyone is college material, so when you have other coaches coming up to you and saying, ‘You’re a really good player’ it makes you open your eyes a little more.
“I’m very shocked I won this award because I just play the game. I don’t expect anything out of it. Knowing that it’s my favorite position and getting this award is breathtaking. I just like the rush of playing defense, the feeling that I have to stop the ball, to track down people, to make it easier for my keeper. I just like all of it.”
GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR. Elizabethtown senior and Purdue signee Emma Tompkins finished with 106 saves and 10 shutouts as her squad finished 19-3. She totaled with 29 points and five first-place votes to finish ahead of North Hardin sophomore Riley Thompson (19 points) and Meade County junior Elizabeth Burns (14). Thompson, Burns and John Hardin sophomore Destiny Clark each received one first-place vote.
“All the hard work has paid off and to get recognition for something like that, and something that you enjoy doing as well as work hard for, is awesome,” she said. “There’s always some sort of pressure (being a goalie) and that’s good. If you’re pressured or you’re nervous to do well, it means that it’s important to you. It has an impact on your life and you want to be the best you can for your team.”
Tompkins finished tied for 10th in the state with those shutouts and the Lady Panthers tied for 16th in giving up one goal a game.
“I have a lot of trust in my team,” she said. “I’ve watched them practice over the years and I know what they’re capable of. I know how a lot of the girls work, so if they are getting down on themselves, I know how to bring them back up. For me, personally, it’s just a soccer game, but just giving our best effort — and if that’s not enough, it’s not enough. Having that faith in yourself and your team is the biggest part for me.
“When you’re beating yourself up after the game is when you have to remember it’s just one soccer game. During the game, we’re there to play soccer and we don’t worry about anything else. I don’t think too much during the game about anything and try to do what feels right. My head’s pretty clear. Not thinking at all kind of helps me not be worried. I know that if I’m too nervous then it will make me play worse, so I try not to be nervous at all, if I can. I just trust my training and the years of experience I’ve collected.
“I think that being a leader as a keeper is a given. Being a leader on the field is just as important because not everybody can always hear me, so that information has to be laid off somehow and everybody has to gel together. Communication is the main part of being a leader. I think we worked really well together over the years. We are friends in school and on the field, which is the best part. We could leave school behind and just play soccer. We were able to lift each other up and power through our tough moments.”
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR. Elizabethtown’s Ella Durbin was the fourth-leading scorer in a team that totaled 106 goals. She had nine goals and 13 assists, up from six and four as a freshman.
Durbin finished with 27 points and four first-place votes, just ahead of Thompson, who had 20 points and two first-place votes. LaRue County’s Lindsey Bauer and John Hardin’s Melissa Wiley each finished with 11 points. Wiley also had a first-place vote.
“I’m really excited about it,” Durbin said. “I didn’t see this coming. It means all my hard work has paid off. I’ve become a more aggressive player. I’m better on the field with making decisions and better passes. My confidence has grown a lot.”
Durbin’s responsibility grew during the season when junior Ann Bell was out with an injury.
“I started playing midfield more this year and I love playing midfield,” she said. “I usually play outside wing. My technical moves and my speed got me to midfield.
“It’s a really fun position because you get to create, you can play through balls to your teammates and make things happen.”
With more responsibility came more defensive pressure.
“I kinda feel I have a target on my back, so it makes me want to try harder on the field,” said Durbin, who has her sights set on playing collegiately. “I’ve been training a lot. I try all the time, but I’m trying harder to become a better soccer player. My teammates are really nice and I love them all. They’re really good soccer players, so I can bounce off them and figure out what to do.”
Durbin is playing club ball in Louisville four nights a week.
“I just love the sport. I think it’s so much fun,” she said. “’m working on my left foot right now and shooting to get the ball on frame more often.”
COACH OF THE YEAR. Black led the Lady Panthers to a 19-3 record.
He totaled 28 points and five first-place votes. Meade County’s Dan Shook had 11 points and Fort Knox’s Evan Virden had 10 points with two first-place votes. John Hardin’s Erik Krivitsky received a first-place vote.
“I know there are numerous coaches that worked as hard and put just as much into their program as I have,” said Black. “I was really thinking Coach Virden or Coach (Chris) Smith (of North Hardin) was going to win by the way they had their programs on huge upswings. Every team in our area had strong improvements from the previous year with (Chris) Ernst and Krivitsky’s teams battling a massive amount of injuries. Those are all worthy of the coach of the year.
“Being voted for by your peers is an honor and greatly appreciated. However, every year I sing the praise of my assistant coaches — Samantha Bennett and Jon Parsons. The coach of the year is a staff/team award and not just a person in our program. My staff is part of the planning and execution of everything we do. Furthermore, the group of girls I get to work with make coaching a blast and they are the main reason why I continue to coach competitive soccer for 33 years now.
“I have given a lot to this game and this team, but it has always returned huge dividends that far outweigh any investment I have put into it.”
ALL-AREA GIRLS’ SOCCER TEAM
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Gabby Garcia, Elizabethtown
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Mya Hawkins, North Hardin
Victoria Schmit, Central Hardin
KEEPER OF THE YEAR
Emma Tompkins, Elizabethtown
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR
Ella Durbin, Elizabethtown
COACH OF THE YEAR
Pat Black, Elizabethtown
Brentyn Dodd, Central Hardin
Gabby Garcia, Elizabethtown
Josie Kremzar, Elizabethtown
Dori Emig, Meade County
Brittney Music, Central Hardin
Ella Durbin, Elizabethtown
Mya Hawkins, North Hardin
Kiarra Loggins, North Hardin
Emma Tompkins, Elizabethtown
Abby Nelson, Meade County
Victoria Schmit, Central Hardin
Allison Bauer, LaRue County
Kylee Nunn, LaRue County
Kaitlyn Rowlett, John Hardin
Alexis Witherspoon, John Hardin
Tori DuPlessis, Elizabethtown
Abby Donahue, Fort Knox
Riley Thompson, North Hardin
Lindsey Bauer, LaRue County
Elizabeth Burns, Meade County
Madison Parker, North Hardin
Ariel Herter, Fort Knox
Central Hardin: Haley Clark, Brooke Norton, Rachel Price, Destiny Tharpe
Elizabethtown: Ann Bell, Anna Grace Carter, Renae Garcia, Lillie Johnson
Fort Knox: Jamaya Meekins, Taylor Nordman
John Hardin: Kylie Croley, Christy de la Rosa Pagan
LaRue County: Kirsten Harper, Olivia Hazelwood, Kenzie Hornback, Bibi Salazar
Meade County: Elaine Bishop, Braydin Board, Maggie Fore, Hannah Heschke, Maria Hines, Lizzie Keith, Brandie Madden, Grace Mattingly, Abagail Susman
North Hardin: Arianna Brown, Brooklyn Heuke, Niyah Jones