The 2011 Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City soccer teams honor a few individual and team firsts but also some All-Bi-City regulars, including a three-time player of the year.
Topping the girls list as All-Bi-City Girls Soccer Co-Players of the Year are Northside sophomore Stephanie Kolwicz and Columbus’ Madison See, a junior who has now been named or shared the player of the year award three consecutive seasons.
The top girls coaching honors also were shared this year. Northside coach Marianne Sheehan led the Patriots through a tough Georgia High School Association Class AAAA schedule, and Jordan’s Wes Wilson coached the Red Jackets to the playoffs for the first time in school history. For their performances, they were voted by other coaches as the All-Bi-City Girls Soccer Co-Coaches of the Year.
Pacelli’s versatile forward Mike Jacobs took the All-Bi-City Boys Soccer Player of the Year honor, and Brookstone coach Billy Byrd was named the All-Bi-City Boys Soccer Coach of the Year for leading the Cougars to the Class A quarterfinals.
Columbus’ See, a midfielder, led Columbus to the second round of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs, where the Blue Devils were eliminated by eventual state champion St. Pius X. And while See did that with her numbers -- she scored 16 goals and added eight assists -- she also was tasked with helping her team in a new role.
“Being an upperclassman and having a lot of freshmen coming in, I had to step up the leadership on and off the field,” See said. “I had to get to know the freshmen and make sure they felt welcome on the team and that they could play with us. It was more than scoring goals when we needed them; it was more about incorporating everyone into one team.”
Northside’s Kolwicz, a sophomore, spent most of her time playing midfield before this season, but looking for a quick boost in scoring, she was moved to forward. It turned out to be a smart move by her coach as Kolwicz scored a team-high 21 goals.
Northside finished 6-9-1 and fell short of a playoff berth, but the experience at forward and playing in Class AAAA for the first year combined for an experience Kolwicz said she hopes will allow her to return as an even stronger asset next year.
“The new region was really a struggle at first,” Kolwicz said. “But we worked through it. We really became a better team on and off the field, and I think I got better, too.”
First and last
Northside’s Sheehan garnered other coaches’ votes with the way she coached her team through a daunting schedule in its first season in Class AAAA.
“It was a new class, a new region and a lot more challenging teams for us,” Sheehan said. “We had a lot of incoming freshmen, which made it even tougher. Luckily, we had Stephanie, who was a key player, and she helped our team mesh through the season.”
Sheehan has been with the Northside soccer team eight years, including four as its head coach, but said 2011 was her final season with the team.
Jordan’s Wilson also got a nod from his fellow coaches for coaching the Red Jackets to their first region championship and with it their first playoff berth.
“It felt really good to be able to win (the region championship),” Wilson said. “What felt good for me was that my girls actually got to experience winning and being on top in a sport that is not very popular at Jordan. That was a big accomplishment for the team this year, and it was exciting for me to see them get so excited over finally being successful in soccer at Jordan.”
All-Bi-City honors are nothing new for Pacelli’s Jacobs, who has been selected to the teams before as a soccer player and as the Vikings’ all-state football kicker.
But it was his consistency and his versatility -- he has played nearly every position on the field for Pacelli -- that earned him player of the year for the first time in 2011.
He scored 22 goals, including two hat tricks, to lead Pacelli to the second round of the Class A playoffs in arguably his best season.
“It was definitely a good year for us,” Jacobs said. “We would have liked to go farther, but I think we played hard all year, and we had a good time.”
Brookstone’s Byrd has made reaching the playoffs an annual event for the Cougars, and this year they enjoyed home-field advantage as they reached the quarterfinals with a 13-2-1 record. But Byrd said his success as a coach is due more to his team’s approach to the game than the X’s and O’s he draws up.
“I had a senior group that set the tone for every practice and every game,” Byrd said. “They had the passion and the self-discipline that made them easy to coach, and they had a genuine affinity for each other. They enjoyed being a team, there was no showboating, and there were no egos.”
Byrd said his players thrived on the field because they viewed soccer as their hobby and not as their duty.
“Sports, in my opinion, shouldn’t be something that causes stress or worry,” Byrd said. “It’s a great chance for our guys to come out and enjoy each other’s company, to compete, and to play hard. I don’t mean for them not to take it seriously, but I like for them to approach it for the love of the game and not because it’s their job.
“When they graduate, I want them to think it was a blast playing soccer, go join their local men’s leagues and coach their kids some day.”
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.