SHS girls soccer wins district, regional titles
Published 4:48 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022
By Matthew Hatfield
When Nathan Jones concluded his first season at the helm of the Smithfield girls soccer program in 2020-21, there was a sense that greatness was on the horizon.
“Making it to the regional finals last year was a big accomplishment for us, so we went into this season very optimistic and excited with high hopes,” Jones revealed. “We didn’t disappoint.”
The Packers put together an 18-2 record in 2021-22, outscoring opponents by a whopping margin of 92-8 and winning both the district and regional banners in the same season for the first time in program history.
“We had a lot of good senior leadership along with a good core of talented junior players. It all meshed for us,” pointed out Jones, the Region 4A Coach of the Year. “I’d say after we lost to Menchville early in the season, it woke them up a little bit and from then on out we were lights out. Everybody had to buy into what we were preaching as coaches. They embraced the challenge.”
One of the signature wins came in defeating Lafayette – which won the Virginia High School League Class 3 soccer state title – for the Bay Rivers District crown.
“To beat them 2-0 in the finals was pretty awesome for our girls,” Jones said. “Watching them perform game after game and get better and better, it was a roller-coaster ride. I felt like every time we had a challenge in front of us, our girls rose to the occasion.”
While Smithfield had qualified for the State Tournament quarterfinals two years prior, getting there in Jones’ second season with a handful of underclassmen proved to be a noteworthy accomplishment. The Packers followed that up by edging Mechanicsville 1-0 in the State Tournament quarterfinals, advancing to the Class 4 Final Four.
“I told the girls at the end of the game that strong teams know how to win when they don’t play well. When they didn’t play their best and still won the game, I knew I had a championship-level team,” Jones recalled. “It was still pretty sweet and special to get a win in front of our home fans in the State Tournament quarterfinals.”
The journey came to an end in a 1-0 loss to Tuscarora out of Leesburg in the semifinals.
“Going in, they were ranked No. 3 in the state and didn’t really have too many weak spots on the field with several D-1 commits,” Jones said. “I knew it would be a test.”
Katie Lutz, an Old Dominion commit, scored 30 goals with eight assists to pace the high-octane Packers’ attack, earning Region 4A Player of the Year.
“As our attacking midfielder, she’s tremendous,” Jones said. “Of course, she could’ve had several more goals if we didn’t take her out during some of the blowouts.”
Fellow First Team All-State selection Kaitlyn Worrell, who had 21 goals and 11 assists, played an integral role as well. Goalie Sydney Schwarz is drawing recruiting attention from South Florida and William & Mary. All three are slated to return as well as Natalee Jones and Kaitlyn Worrell, both of whom also earned All-State recognition.
Brianna Curro, who earned Second Team All-Region honors as a sophomore, was another key component to Smithfield High’s success with 14 goals and 18 assists.
“Bri was the unsung hero,” Jones noted. “She scored the game-winning goal in the regional finals along with having the most assists on our team. She made things happen for us and stepped up big time as a distributor with so many of those assists for Katie and Kaitlyn.”
Smithfield sees six seniors, four of whom started, graduate: Riley Goetz, Evynne Strader, Faith Wells, Sophia Verhaeghe, Deanna Cena and Kylie Leonard.
“Losing three seniors on your backline (Riley, Evynne and Deanna) is going to be huge,” Jones said. “The parts are there and we’re reloaded and ready to go for next year. To have that kind of talent on your roster is incredible. You can’t be successful unless you have the players and we definitely had the kids this year that thrived in the moment, so we were very blessed.”
Perhaps it’ll lead to even greater heights for Smithfield’s girls for the 2022-23 campaign.
“We’re happy to see the progress we’re making at Smithfield and the program we’re building is substantial,” Jones added. “Hopefully we can make another state run.”