By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL - It was a tough question, potentially, for Warren County junior midfielder Kelsea Potts.
So Kelsea, what was your favorite goal from last season?
Potts had to think about that one, no question. After all, she tallied a school-record 18 goals last year for the Wildcats. That could well have left Potts paralyzed by so many options for answering the question, but there was never a doubt.
Favorite goal? Easy peasy -- the tying score against Evergreen District rival Liberty during a regular-season game last April instantly sprang to mind for Potts and Warren County coach Mike Carpenter. The tally, coming with just about four minutes to go in the game on the road in Bealeton, secured a district tie for the Wildcats and ultimately kept the squad from going winless in the Evergreen.
The goal came off an assist by Tori Graham.
That combo, Graham and Potts, has worked together throughout the year. In the fall, they played together on the Washington Area Girls Soccer (WAGS) Winchester United squad, then combined with most of their Warren County teammates to form Furious, an indoor soccer team which played this winter at the Sportsplex in Winchester.
"Tori and I make great combos because we play WAGS and indoor together," Potts said. "It was like in slow motion when I saw it, and I thought I'd miss it. I was like, 'No, it's my last chance,' and it went upper right 90."
Carpenter remembers that goal just as vividly, and credits Graham's centering assist just as much -- maybe even a bit more -- for that goal. Late in the game, Carpenter sought out Graham on the bench as she nursed a knee injury suffered in the game.
"I said, 'I need one more goal,' and she went out there and got it for us," Carpenter said.
Potts also dealt with the injury bug last year, suffering a right quadriceps injury late in the season that prompted a move back to forward.
"She'd wrap up with tape and play the game, then sit out a practice or two," Carpenter said. "It was a vicious cycle for pretty much the entire second half of the season."
For most of last season, Potts had played in the midfield for Warren County as then-sophomore Anne Skube settled in better at forward. Potts was a lethal threat in the midfield, scoring most of her school-record goals there (the previous mark was 14 goals). Potts' 18 goals also topped the scoring in the Evergreen District last season.
"I couldn't have done it without a strong midfield and a strong defense," Potts said.
Carpenter aims for the Wildcats to be more competitive in the always-rigorous Evergreen District, and Potts plays a major role in those plans. Although the positions are still a bit unsettled, Potts likely will resume her role in the midfield, along with Graham and newcomer Kayla Gibbons, while Skube will stay up front at forward and Kelsey Gibbons, Kayla Gibbons' twin sister, will anchor the defense.
"We see a more fluid team where players aren't just set -- they're not just forwards, midfielders or defenders," Carpenter said. "We have a lot of players who are capable of movement on the field, where if one player moves another player can go back and take their place.
"The core group of girls work really well together. We're going to try to implement our strategy this season, to be more fluid and have more movement on the field."
Potts has been working on making even more of an impact this season, and she's never lacking for helpers at home. Older brothers Andrew, 26, and Nathan, 24, are both former Warren County soccer players and still enthusiastic training partners.
"They just help me with my touches," Potts said.
Carpenter is expecting another big season from Potts, who made a leap in her playing level last season.
"The maturity level, I think from around the middle of the last year, has just taken off," Carpenter said. "She's put more on her shoulders in terms of responsibility, team-wise. She'd probably be the first one to admit she was not a big fan of practice -- she's more of a gamer. But she's just transformed now. She realizes what you put in practice, you can benefit with results when you're playing on the field."
Potts has been paying extra attention to her shooting power this season, as she tries to supplement her accuracy with a bit more pace. So far, so good. She's fully recovered from last season's pesky quad injury, and hopes to help the Wildcats improve on last season's six-win campaign.
"I'm really just hoping that we make great passes and combos," Potts said. "In our district, it's not really all about scoring. It's just playing your best."
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at 540-465-5137 ext. 167 or at email@example.com