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All-Calhoun County girls soccer: Despite rash of injuries, Falcons delivered another strong season under Jenkins

Donoho Whitesburg soccer

Donoho head coach Jay Jenkins during the Donoho vs. Whitesburg Christian AHSAA soccer playoff game in Huntsville.

Coaches often take the rap when seasons fall short of hopes and dreams, but Jay Jenkins and Donoho’s girls soccer team battled more than expectations in 2022.

A team that returned nearly intact after a 1A-3A state runner-up finish in 2021 fought a rash of injuries. Donoho went from a goals machine to a team that had to win on defense.

The turf monster ultimately felled the Falcons in a second-round penalty-kick shootout at Whitesburg Christian, but that’s how close Donoho came to returning to the Final Four for the third time in five years.

For getting Donoho’s girls that close in the last of his nine seasons as their coach, Jay Jenkins will go out as The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County coach of the year in girls soccer.

Donoho finished 16-1 and won its fifth consecutive Calhoun County title. The Falcons also won their fifth area title under Jenkins.

They envisioned more after losing one senior off of the 2021 team, but they couldn’t have envisioned the literal twists, turns, tears and pulls that reduced their offensive firepower.

Forward/midfielder Kathleen Seals, returning after a concussion forced her to miss most of the 2021 playoffs, played all season with a torn quad.

“She had three or four games she sat out, but she fought and played as much as her body would allow her to,” Jenkins said.

Seals got “absolutely trucked” and knocked out of the Whitesburg match, Jenkins said, missing the second half and both overtimes.

“She would’ve been one of my key shooters in the shootout,” Jenkins said.

Midfielder and two-time Calhoun County player of the year Erin Turley battled through back and groin injuries. She sat out a game and played only a half in two more.

She played through a hamstring pull in the playoff loss at Whitesburg.

“She was just very hobbled,” Jenkins said.

Midfielder Zoe Christopher pulled a hamstring and missed “several games” in the middle of the season, Jenkins said.

Senior goalkeeper Maggie Wakefield sat out a game late in the regular season and played through the playoffs with what Jenkins called a “tweaked” knee. She couldn’t punt during her senior-night game and rolled the ball to teammates instead.

“The struggle in all of that was trying to get consistency with players understanding each other and where they’re going to be and where to place a pass,” Jenkins said. “At the end of the day, we never quite got that back, and it proved to be our downfall.”

How much did injuries impact Donoho? The Falcons had a 50-4 goal differential at one point in the season.

“We won a lot of games with our defense, which has always been our signature,” Jenkins said. “It became critically important. At one point, we won six games in a row by one goal. …

“We just quit scoring, and that was the real impact of the injuries.”

Turley, who scored 37 goals with 28 assists in 2021, wound up with 24 and 13 this season.

While injuries impacted Donoho profoundly, turf had a say during the penalty-kick shootout at Whitesburg Chiristian. Three Falcons slipped and kicked over the goal.

The hopes and dreams inspired by 2021 just weren’t to be in 2022, but Jenkins measures the season by how his players fought adversity.

“We just kind of managed, you know,” Jenkins said. “A next-lady-up mentality really was embraced by that group of girls.

“I think, if we all stayed healthy and all stayed engaged all season, we would’ve been in that final game.”

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.