One efficient team
Unselfish team play was the name of the game for Gladstone's Class 4A state champion girls soccer team
It's been quite a year for Gladstone High School's girls soccer program
After going undefeated and untied in the Capital Conference and winning their sixth league title in the past nine seasons, the Gladiators (17-2-0, 10-0) bagged their second state title in the past three seasons, defeating Sisters 1-0 in overtime in the championship final.
The Gladiators out-scored their 19 opponents 84-6. They finished the season with a school-record-breaking 17-game win string, and the Gladiator defense and freshman goalie Molly Webster tied the school record for most shutouts in a season, at 14.
In terms of efficiency on offense, Gladstone coach Steve Thomas says this year's team was the most efficient he's ever coached. For the season, the Gladiators got off 399 shots and 247 of those shots (62 percent) were on-frame.
Thomas said the high efficiency was because his squad played as a complete unit, with every player contributing, both on defense and on offense.
'We had 12 players score goals and 12 players make assists,' Thomas said.
Junior Amber Jensen, who was named the Tri-Valley Conference offensive player of the year for the second year in a row, led the Gladiators' scoring with 37 goals, 14 assists and six hat tricks.
Sophomore Kelsey Hathaway had 12 goals and 11 assists; junior McKenna Hopkins had 12 goals and five assists; senior Ashley Beykovsky had five goals and 11 assists; and senior Haleigh Murrell had four goals and eight assists. Senior Brita Kintz and junior Madi Cronin had seven assists apiece.
The Gladiators will graduate five players who started three or more years - defender Meagan Bartz, defensive midfielder Rylee Jones, and midfielders Beykovsky, Murrell and Kintz.
Still Thomas says he believes his Gladiators will continue tough next season.
'We lose some really talented seniors,' Thomas said. 'But looking at the kids I've got coming back, I could put together a pretty good starting lineup right now.'
Among the athletes returning to play for Gladstone next fall, five of them earned all-league honors this year - seniors-to-be Jensen, Cronin and Taylor Plunkett; junior-to-be Hathaway, and sophomore-to-be Webster.
The Gladiators will also return experienced varsity players in seniors-to-be Grace Kersting and Victoria Finley; juniors-to-be Kendall Schumaker, Julia Schumaker and Cheyenne Stubblefield; and sophomore-to-be Tianna Smith (backup goalie and midfield).
Following the state title game, Bartz said, 'We've got a lot of talent coming back, and there'll be some secret weapons [incoming freshmen] that will help the team.'
Bartz added, 'I expect them to be back here, and I'll be back to watch them, for sure.'
'We lose a great senior class,' said Thomas. 'They only lost six games in four years. They were great distributors and passers.
'But I'm happy with the experience that I've got coming back, and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't continue successful.'