'She has been the glue'

Sylacauga senior Jillian Foster earned all-county Player of the Year honors.

Of the four varsity girls soccer programs in Talladega County, Sylacauga outshined the field by taking home five all-county selections, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year honors.

Lady Aggies senior centerback Jillian Foster headlined the quintet that included senior goalkeeper Keziah Sanders, junior Faith Richardson, senior Elizabeth “Bizzy” Arnold and sophomore Kayla Wesson.

“She (Jillian) has been the glue to hold it together on that back line for years and she deserved being named the Player of the Year,” Sylacauga head coach Nick Grogan said.

“She gets so many compliments from other coaches when the games are over. They all come over and say, ‘Man I wish I had one (like her),’ and I (tell them), ‘Man, I wish I could keep her forever.’

“Unfortunately, I’ll lose her this year, but we’ll have other people that will step up for her spot. She has been a pleasure to coach.”

Sylacauga (15-6) advanced to the Class 4A-5A quarterfinals but fell to last year’s 6A champion, John Carroll, 6-0. John Carroll moved down to Sylacauga’s classification after the 2018 season.

Sanders registered 102 saves and preserved 13 shutouts in her senior season, while Richardson provided a complimentary offensive component for Grogan’s group.

“Keziah has been a dominant goalie for years,” Grogan said. “It’s been a pleasure to be able to coach her and be around her. She has a great attitude. She’s a great leader and she meant so much to our team as a leader.

“Faith Richardson has really stepped it up this year. She was our goal-scorer. I asked her to do so many different things, and she never argued with me. She just said ‘Yes, sir.’

“We worked really hard on improving her game, and she did a great job of holding everything together up top and in the middle.

“It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to coach her because she had almost not played soccer this year … She’s been a great asset for our team and a good offensive leader for us.”

Grogan added Wesson developed into a key piece on the back line and a possible successor to Foster, while Arnold served as a jill-of-most-trades.

“Wesson was the newcomer of the year,” Grogan said. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my back line. I knew I had Foster and I really wasn’t sure where everybody else would fit in.

“She came in and she was just a blue-collar worker back there. She outworked you. She had great speed … She made so many improvements that I think she’ll do a great job next year.

“(Arnold) has great size and great athletic ability. She was our leading scorer and leader in assists. She did it all.

“In the third round of the playoffs (against John Carroll), I asked her to play on the back line. Every time Foster needed a break, she’s the one I went to … She was able to do everything, and it was so big for us.

“Bizzy, I wish I had her for one more year. Her potential was just through the roof.”

In his first season at the helm, Grogan received all-county Coach of the Year honors, an award he said wouldn’t have been possible without the team’s hard work.

“I’ve coached for a long time and coached club teams such as Briarwood, Chelsea and Alex City Fire,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned through all these years of coaching is you can’t be a great coach without great players.

“I had great players this year and I had ladies who wanted to learn soccer and wanted to get better. Without that, it doesn’t matter what I do.”

Lincoln failed to qualify for the 4A-5A playoffs for the first time since 2016, but the Lady Golden Bears (12-9-4) landed three players on the all-county team -- Grace Linn, Taylor Lett and Katie Threatt.

Childersburg (6-11-1) finished as runner-up to Sylacauga in 4A-5A, Area 6, but failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs (the Lady Tigers fell to American Christian 2-1).

A pair of Lady Tigers, Cindy Sanchez and Aubrey Foy, earned spots on the all-county team for their efforts.

Talladega’s Michelle Hernandez and Litzy Diego rounded out the all-county squad.

The all-county team was selected by county coaches.