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Tough challenge awaits Jamestown girls soccer in Bay Rivers opener

The sum of the returning individual parts on Jamestown's girls soccer team is impressive. But, as co-head coach Kevin Dawson points out, making the whole greater than those parts is the key to winning soccer.

To begin that process, the Eagles opened the season with a trip to Virginia Beach, where they split games against Group 6A schools. Shortly thereafter, the Eagles defeated Courtland 1-0.

Bay Rivers District play begins Wednesday for the Eagles with yet another challenge, a game on the road against a Tabb team that reached the 2016 Group 3A state semifinals.

"We got close as a group in Virginia Beach, at the cabins and on the campground," said senior Page Frantz, the Eagles' Group 4A all-state first-team midfielder/defender. "The Bay Rivers District is challenging and we look forward to seeing how we do.

"We're always optimistic that we can go deep into the postseason, and this year we hope to go a little further."

That would mean getting to the 4A state semifinals or even the final for a program that regularly advances to the state quarterfinal level. First the Eagles, who were 14-3 a year ago, must hurdle their challengers — Tabb and Smithfield — in the Bay Rivers.

Smithfield returns a group that includes All-Conference 18 selections Mikala Dean, Erin Lee, Maddie Bauman, Sydney Zari and Sophia Erickson, but will be without Savannah Cook (37 goals in 2016) — out for the season with a knee injury.

Tabb will be strong with return of starters Abby Jurewicz, Schuyler Jurewicz, Brennan Rausch, Abby Heckler, Gabby Solaroli and Taylor Carr. But the Tigers graduated a ton of talent, including Division I recruits Leah Tyson (40 goals) and Lakaiah Robinson, as well as first-team all-state selection Madalynn Grounds.

As good as Tabb and Smithfield were a year ago, Jamestown beat them 2-0 and 3-0, respectively, on their way to winning all nine Bay Rivers matches. The eight returning starters make the Eagles a heavy favorite to repeat as BRD champs, with replicating their terrific defensive numbers being the biggest challenge.

Emma Hudson, a midfielder/forward a year ago, has moved to goalkeeper, where Dawson said "she is getting better every week." The three backs in front of her are Haley Mardis, Julia Allison and Summer Haag.

Freshman Josie Shostak is adding depth to the group and is proving to be a worthy successor to Setta Brown. Brown, physical and impenetrable in making the Daily Press All-Stars last year, will likely miss the season with an injury.

"The group is quickly learning their roles, their defensive and attacking responsibilities," Dawson said. "They're slowly getting better."

Frantz, who had 14 goals and eight assists a year ago, and Kylie Devine are the holding midfielders. They support the defense while using their considerable ball skills to help start the attack.

Kennedy Mills, who had 13 assists in earning all-state honors a year ago, teams with Keara Cavanaugh in the center of the midfield.

Sophomore forward Sofie Fox, who has a great combination of speed, strength and passing ability, could've scored more than 21 goals a year ago. But Dawson often moved her to defense or the sidelines when the Eagles were enjoying big leads.

"We certainly have the individual and team skill to compete on the state level," Dawson said. "My challenge is to get them to work hard enough to realize their full potential."

O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.

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