2011 All-County Soccer Best of the best on the pitch

Published 1:59 am Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chappell has career season as WC’s top scoring threat

Warren Central’s Eric Chappell is all about consistency.

Since he arrived on Warren Central’s campus from Cincinnati, he has lifted Warren Central’s soccer program to a division championship and two playoff berths in his four seasons.

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He has been a scoring threat from either his preferred spot up top or in the midfield. He emerged as the team’s leader, with his teammates eager to follow his high tempo.

He is this year’s Vicksburg Post Player of the Year after scoring 28 goals, good for fifth in the state, and dishing 11 assists. It’s familiar ground for him, as he won the award in 2009.

WC Greg Head will have to get used to life without Chappell, who has been a scoring phenom since his first game in red and blue. Chappell’s tally this year gave him 62 goals in three years, an incredible number by any standard.

“Eric is the kind of player that makes coaching fun,” Head said. “He always gives 110 percent every time he steps on the field. The first day he stepped on the field, I knew he was special, because he was everywhere. He never got tired.”

This year, despite no division title repeat, might have been Chappell’s best season yet. Last year three foreign exchange students — Tim Hoeptner of Germany, Robert Langeland of Norway and Jacob Pettersson of Sweden — helped build a formidable core along with Chappell, Jamal Brinnon, Buddy Cook and Matt Waddle. Chappell could work at will since defenses couldn’t focus on just him.

This year, with the three international players back in their home countries, defenses re-focused their attention on Chappell much as they did in previous years, marking him up constantly. But he still found ways to score.

Now he’s headed to Brigham Young in Utah, where he hopes to make their strong soccer program as a walk-on. But the biggest thing he’s looking forward to is his Mormon missionary commitment, which will take place after his first year of college. He will return to Provo for the rest of college after two years spreading his faith.

Like soccer, Chappell is eager for the challenge and ready to embrace it as he did with soccer, full speed ahead.

“It’s exciting,” Chappell said. “People call it the best two years of your life and I’m very excited.”

Griffith’s clutch play kept St. Aloysius in playoff hunt

Throughout their stunning season, the St. Aloysius Lady Flashes had to adapt to and overcome adversity.

A key scorer went down with an injury, and they kept on chugging. A top defender sprained an ankle and they barely missed a beat. The reason why was obvious — a fiery, red-haired rock in the middle of the field.

In the midst of change and turmoil, Riley Griffith was there to stabilize the Lady Flashes. When they needed a big play or a goal, she always seemed to come through. When they needed a dose of leadership, she was there.

The junior scored 17 goals and assisted on seven more while leading the Lady Flashes to the girls’ Class 1A-2A-3A semifinals for the second consecutive season. Griffith now caps her stellar season by winning the Vicksburg Post’s Player of the Year award. She’s the first St. Al player since Andrea Harrison in 2006 to win the award.

“She was a valuable asset we had, because I depended on her to be a leader and coach on the field,” said Suzie Channell, who guided St. Al to an 11-10-1 record in her first season as coach. “Without her, we would have struggled.”

Griffith was a key contributor for the Lady Flashes as a sophomore in 2009-10 — she scored nine goals and earned all-county honors — but had to grow up in a hurry this season. She was the only junior starter on a roster with no seniors and made up mostly of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.

As the only upperclassman, Griffith was thrust into a leadership role whether she was ready for it or not.

“I was used to always being the underclassman. Go get the balls, things like that,” Griffith said with a laugh. “Then all of a sudden I was a leader. The responsibility was tough. I had to remember to always stay calm and not get frustrated.

“It was tough to keep perservering and remember it was inexperienced players around me.”

Griffith kept a level head and an even higher level of play throughout the season. With so many young players on the field, the Lady Flashes seemed unlikely to repeat their success of 2009-10 heading into the new season.

They started strong, though, and kept on plugging.

When injuries to Nicole Hayward, the team’s second-leading scorer, and defender Madison Lumbley threatened to break St. Al’s momentum, Griffith kept the train rolling with her steady play.

Banks enjoys tremendous success in first year

As a former player, Trey Banks relished his chance to lead a Warren Central soccer program.

Banks took over in the fall as Warren Central’s new head coach. In his first season, Banks directed WC to two wins over archrival Vicksburg, making it the first time in 15 years the Lady Vikes have swept the Missy Gators in a single season. They also made the Class 6A playoffs and finished with a 10-10-1 record.

For his accomplishments, Banks is the The Vicksburg Post’s Soccer Coach of the Year.

For Banks — his first season leading the WC girls — was the start of a process.

“I called it a building year,” Banks said. “We had one senior and three juniors, but only two of those started. The rest of the team was made up of seventh, eighth and ninth graders. Considering we were so top heavy with underclassmen and played the schedule we did, I call it a successful building year. For the first time since coach (Lucy) Young was here, we beat Vicksburg twice in the same season. We made the playoffs and I felt we competed for a district championship.”

For Banks, just making the playoffs is not enough. He wants his Lady Vikes to be able to compete and beat the best.

“The big thing is confidence,” Banks said. “I want to build that confidence that we can compete against the perennial powers and not just have them write us off. Our main goal is to win a district championship.”

Banks’ players have bought in to his mission.

Junior striker Taylor Hanes said Banks was able to make the Lady Vikes into a team.

“Last year, we argued a lot,” Hanes said. “He did a lot to change that. We became a team. He was encouraging. He also subbed a lot and that gave the younger girls an opportunity to play.”

Banks still have to overcome plenty of adversity. His lone senior, Chelsea Duett, injured her knee and missed an entire month of the season. With Duett out, Mallory Reynolds stepped up and led the club but she had to leave during the mid-semester break when her dad left River Region Hospital for another post in Texas.

“We miss Chelsea for the entire month of December and that was after she had gotten off to a great start with seven goals in November,” Banks said. “Mallory steps in and leads us with six goals and eight assists and then she has to transfer. And on top of that, was my surgery in September where I missed two months with them.”

Duett said Banks made it through the hard times with a positive attitude.

“For a Lady Vike, in my last year, I couldn’t have asked for any more,” Duett said. “He was always very positive and believed in us.”

When Reynolds left, the Lady Vikes got help from their younger players. Katie Humphries stepped up big at goalkeeper. She held serve in a 1-0 win in the first match with Vicksburg. In the rematch, Humphries made four saves in an overtime shootout to net a playoff-clinching win.

“She was so big in both Vicksburg games,” Banks said of Humphries. “She showed how much she wanted to win.”

There were others.

“We had some big voids, but Kelsey McMaster did a phenomenal job in a key position,” Banks said. “Taylor Hanes stepped up as a striker and was big in those intense games with Vicksburg.”