To appreciate where Valor Christian’s girls soccer team ended up last spring – and where the Eagles hope to go in 2017 – it’s significant to take a brief trip back in time.
Two years ago Valor Christian entered the 2015 playoffs as the No. 7 seed, looking to get back into the title hunt in Class 4A. Instead, a rash of late-season injuries hit the program hard in the first round. Centaurus handed the Eagles their first opening-round loss in the team’s brief history, ending Valor Christian’s run before it could even get started.
“I think that team that year was poised to make a deep run in state, and just had the injury-bug hit them like crazy right at the end of the regular season,” said current Valor Christian coach Brian Shultz, who returned to lead the program last season. “They lost some major contributors right before the playoffs started, and just probably didn’t have enough time to figure it out before it was go-time in the playoffs.
“Did that light a fire under the girls to get back? Absolutely, I think it did.”
Enter Shultz, who had coached Valor Christian to its only state title in 2011 and two semifinal appearances the following two seasons. He stepped down before the 2014 season to focus on teaching and coaching the Valor boys, but returned last spring.
The Eagles rediscovered their playoff magic, making it back to the championship game for the first time in five years before falling to Lewis-Palmer 1-0.
“That was a really painful ending,” said Eagles senior Camryn Dyke, who has signed with Notre Dame. “We had a really great season last year. We definitely want to be back there this year.”
Valor Christian, ranked first in the CHSAANow.com 4A preseason rankings, returns two first-team all-state talents in Camryn and younger sister Cori, who made an immediate impact as a freshman last spring. Versatile talent Caroline Noonan was a second-team selection, and the team has five seniors who have signed to play collegiately.
Camryn Dyke will compete for the Fighting Irish, and Grace Collins (Wyoming) and Tess Boade (Duke) are also going to Division I programs. Bri Johnson (Westmont College) and Paige Kula (John Brown) will play for NAIA schools.
“We have a great group of seniors this year, some amazing girls,” said Camryn, who shared the team lead in goals scored with Johnson at 15. “I think we all just want to do it for each other and leave a legacy here.”
Kula missed last spring with a knee injury, though Shultz said her leadership still helped play a critical role in helping the team reach the title game. Boade competed for Valor’s track and field team as a junior, but is back with the soccer program for her final season.
Noonan is a junior, as is goalkeeper Alex Daws, who rotated as a sophomore but was in net during the playoff run and has committed to Wyoming.
Valor Christian finished second in the 4A Jeffco League a year ago, but took out Evergreen and league champion Wheat Ridge in the postseason. Those same two teams handed the Eagles back-to-back losses in late April, which helped reinvigorate the squad, according to Shultz.
To keep Valor Christian sharp and on its toes at all times this season, the coach strengthened the schedule even more with non-league games against the likes of two-time defending 5A champion Grandview; a Cheyenne Mountain team that won 4A titles from 2013-15; and Colorado Academy, which won 3A in 2014 and 2015 and took second last year.
That doesn’t include the gauntlet that the 4A Jeffco League serves up each spring.
“We’re just trying to prepare ourselves for the playoffs, so that any team we face at the end of the season is not going to surprise us,” Shultz said. “It’s the toughest schedule we’ve had.”
Lewis-Palmer returns a pair of first-team all-state selections, including reigning Player of the Year Brianna Alger, who has signed with Washington State. The Rangers enter the season ranked second in 4A, followed by Cheyenne Mountain, Windsor and Mullen. In addition to Valor, three more Jeffco League teams – Wheat Ridge, D’Evelyn and Evergreen – are also ranked in the top 10.
In 5A, Grandview is looking for a third consecutive 5A crown after going 18-0-1 a year ago. Kent Denver and reigning 3A POY Sage DiGuilio entered the season ranked first, with two-time defending 2A champion Vail Mountain make the jump to the 3A classification as well.
Dawson School returns 2A POY Hannah Isenhart as the Mustangs seek their first state crown.
Girls soccer preview
- Regular season begins: March 9
- Postseason begins: May 9
- 5A: 7 p.m. on May 24 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
- 4A: 5 p.m. on May 24 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
- 3A: 7 p.m. on May 23 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
- 2A: 5 p.m. on May 23 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Defending state champions:
Returning all-state players:
- Class 5A: Rebekah Burton, Sr., Cherokee Trail (2nd team); Remi Clarke, Jr., Fossil Ridge (2nd team); Libby Geraghty, Sr., Cherry Creek (2nd team); Hixson, Sr., Grandview (1st team); Nicole Lyubenko, Sr., Grandview (1st team); Taylor Parker, Sr., Grandview (1st team); Haley Schueppert, Sr., Mountain Vista (1st team); Tea Smith, Sr., Fairview (2nd team); Madison Williams, Jr., Rocky Mountain (2nd team).
- Class 4A: Brianna Alger, Sr., Lewis-Palmer (1st team); Hannah Burgo, Sr., The Classical Academy (2nd team); Camryn Dyke, Sr., Valor Christian (1st team); Cori Dyke, Soph., Valor Christian (1st team); Lauren Jones, Sr., Cheyenne Mountain (1st team); Chaynee Kingsbury, Jr., Windsor (1st team); Caleigh Michael, Sr., Mullen (2nd team); Caroline Noonan, Jr., Valor Christian (2nd team); Karly Sandoval, Sr., Lewis-Palmer (1st team); Adalyn Vergara, Jr., Windsor (2nd team).
- Class 3A: Jennika Chapman, Sr., Jefferson Academy (1st team); Sidney Chong, Soph., Kent Denver (2nd team); Sage DiGiulio, Sr., Kent Denver (1st team); Alex Loera, Sr., The Academy (1st team); Brooklyn Mack, Jr., Manitou Springs (1st team); Sarah Masinter, Sr., Colorado Academy (1st team); McKenna Monk, Sr., Founain Valley (2nd team); Kristi Nagai, Sr., Jefferson Academy; Anna Ponzio, Jr., Colorado Academy (2nd team); Shelby Schumacher, Sr., Kent Denver (1st team); Hannah Wilson, Sr., Colorado Springs Christian (2nd team).
- Class 2A: Mikayla Grubbs, Soph., Cornerstone Christian Academy (1st team); Emma Hall, Jr., Vail Mountain (1st team); Hannah Isenhart, Sr., Dawson School (1st team); Tess Johnson, Jr., Vail Mountain (1st team); Maggie Kirkpatrick, Sr., Evangelical Christian (1st team); April Mann, Sr., Evangelical Christian (1st team); Samantha O’Brien, Jr., Clear Creek (1st team); Anwyn Urquhart, Soph., Vail Mountain (1st team).