Petty voted MVP of girls district soccer
Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer

April 6, 2004 -- J.J. Williams was standing outside his classroom, when two members of the boys' soccer team walked by on their way to class.

Williams asked them who the leading scorer in SSHS soccer history was, and they quickly answered Joey Cameron. The first-year girls' coach couldn't wait to correct them.

Lady Wildcat junior Ashley Petty, who is known as "A.P." to those close to her, broke the school record for goals in a season with her 29th tally in the playoffs against Henderson.

Petty's talents didn't go unnoticed, as she was voted the District 14-4A Most Valuable Player.

Petty helped lead SSHS to the first district title in its four-year history, and she is one of a talented group of Lady Cats that will return next season.

"A.P. is a great leader on this team and has a nose for the goal," Williams said. "It's great to know we'll have her for another year."

Petty didn't do it alone, as eleven of her teammates and her coach took home superlatives as well.

Gayle Grand-Lienard was one of a trio of freshmen who made their mark this season. She has unlimited potential, playing more like an upperclassman, and was named Newcomer of the Year.

"Gayle has nothing but a bright future ahead of her," Williams said. "She's smart with the ball, whether it's a cross or a cutback and can do so many things offensively. It's unbelievable for a girl her age to have the kind of moves and quickness she has, but playing club ball and going to camps has definitely allowed her to become the player she is."

All three SSHS team captains -- Yorri Franklin, Danielle Smith and Tess Bragg -- were unanimous First Team selections.

Franklin, a senior, was the Lady Cats' vocal leader on the field, something Williams hopes can be replaced next season. Her quickness will be missed as well.

"I think Yorri's value was proven when she got hurt and had to miss the Mount Pleasant game," Williams said. "I'm not making excuses, but I don't think the girls were in sync with Yorri not out there with them."

Smith might be the most missed player next season, as the senior sweeper's departure leaves the biggest gap on the field next season.

"It's going to be tough losing Danielle," Williams said. "She was so comfortable in her role, and she would catch up with her opponent the few times one got by her."

Bragg, a junior, will be one of the team's major focal points next season. Her ability to kick with power and use both of her feet make her a valuable asset, and her leadership on the field is immeasurable.

"Tess is a captain for a reason," Williams said. "She could play defense and offense and executed corner kicks better than anyone. She does a good job of communicating on the field and helped with our defensive positioning."

North Lamar's Gabi Brenes was Offensive MVP, teammate Kelly Clark Defensive MVP while Texas High's Erin Davenport and Mount Pleasant's Christina Sandoval were chosen as Midfield MVPs.

North Lamar's Allison Felty and Katie Nicklas, Texas High's Leslie Miller, Mount Pleasant's Gloria Guzman and Paris High's Kristin Elliot were all unanimous First Team selections. Mount Pleasant's Kayda Alverada and Stephanie Thomas, North Lamar's Elysha Wilson and Paris High's Heather Cope were also named to the first team.

Senior Caroline Capobianco, a Second Team selection, was one of the most physical Lady Cats, and it all added up to what Williams said turned her from a mediocre forward into a great defender.

"Caroline's aggressiveness fit in very well for us on the defensive side of the ball," Williams said. "She was very physical on the field and let any opponent that came her way know they were in for a fight."

Robin Grafton is another member of the SSHS youth movement, as the freshman was named to the Second Team. She answered Williams' call late in the season by moving from midfielder to defender, and her versatility will serve her well in the years to come.

"Robin played everywhere for us, especially toward the end of the year," Williams said. "She was willing to step up and take on new roles and never complained. She's got a cannon for a leg too."

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the emergence of freshman goalkeeper Kai'la Petty. She took Nacogdoches to a shootout in her first game in net during the Snowball Classic, but she came to the forefront toward the end of the year.

Petty matched a more experienced Henderson goalie stop for stop in the area round of the playoffs, and it took 14 attempts before a Lady Lion finally got the ball past her. The performance was good enough for a Second Team selection.

"Kai'la was a late addition to the team," Williams said. "If I had known how much of a quality keeper she was, I would've brought her up sooner."

North Lamar had three Second Team selections in Robyn Bush, Janey McFatridge and Aimee Rea, as did Texas High (Meredith Power, Mallory Smith and Stephanie Fisher) and Paris (Tarren Taylor, Brittany Ballard and Monica Yates). Mount Pleasant had two second teamers in Sandra Aguilar and Maria Zaldevar.

Senior Amanda McDonald, who was one of three Lady Wildcats who helped the program get started, led five SSHS players who were chosen Honorable Mention All-District, including fellow senior Kaleigh Thompson.

Junior defender Jennifer Moreland and sophomores Maci Chester and MacKenzie Kelty were also Honorable Mention selections.

Williams didn't have a bad inaugural season, being named Coach of the Year, but he gives credit to the team, particularly the 12 aforementioned players.

"I don't really see it as an honor for me, but more about the girls and how hard they worked to get to where they are," Williams said. "They didn't select Coach of the Year based on win-loss record but more about what the girls did for you. These girls made me look better."

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