Generals’ Singleton eager for season

Brittany Singleton will help lead the Stonewall Jackson girls soccer team this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – Brittany Singleton always feels a surge of excitement when the start of the high school girls soccer season approaches each year.

A volleyball player for Stonewall Jackson High School in the fall, Singleton traditionally takes a break from sports in the winter and spends that time in eager anticipation of the upcoming spring soccer season, even going so far as to construct a potential roster of her Generals teammates in her head based on who she thinks will be on the varsity team each year.

This year is no different. Soaking up sunshine during a rare bit of spring-like weather following Stonewall’s first outdoor soccer practice of the year on Monday afternoon, Singleton, still catching her breath after the round of conditioning the Generals had completed only minutes before, unleashed the phrase, “I am so ready for this season,” her enthusiasm nearly palpable with each word.

That soccer-driven excitement isn’t foreign to Singleton, and yet this year it feels slightly more enhanced for the Stonewall Jackson junior.

“It’s pretty typical,” Singleton said, “but this season feels extra special for me. I just feel like we’re going to go far this season. The combination of players that we have, we don’t really have any gaps. We’re short on numbers but the numbers that we do have matter. The numbers that we do have I think will be substantial. I think we’ll be good.”

Singleton’s predictions aren’t purely based on speculation. One glance at the Generals’ roster this season shows plenty of reason for optimism for a program looking to improve on last year’s 8-10 campaign.

Stonewall Jackson graduated a large group of seniors that included Singleton’s older sister, Allison (seven goals and five assists in 2014), but the Generals do retain a strong core that accounted for a bulk of their offense a year ago.

“We’re not worried about scoring goals,” said Generals first-year coach Hap Kwiatkowski, who previously coached at Central and is Stonewall’s third girls soccer coach in as many seasons. “We will score. I’m positive Stonewall will score goals this season. What I’m worried about is the defense.”

Senior forward Emily Jordan returns this spring after leading the Generals with 13 goals and eight assists last year. Fellow senior Ally Hepner (five goals, three assists in 2014) is also back, as is junior Kelsey Kokkonen, who contributed two goals and four assists last spring.

Then there is Singleton, who thrived in her first major role with the Generals’ varsity squad as a sophomore last year, finishing second on the team with nine goals to go along with a team-high 10 assists.

“I definitely surprised myself with the assists, actually,” Singleton said of her second year with Stonewall’s varsity girls soccer program. “Growing up I always thought of myself as a better shooter than necessarily setting up the plays, but once I realized Emily [Jordan] and I clicked so well I would just set those plays up and I know she will be there. It’d be better for our team for me to set up the play instead of trying to just go in and score.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the shot if it’s there but I definitely learned last year that I can set up a play well.”

It was Singleton’s ability from the midfield and forward positions to set up those plays, and in particular with Jordan, that molded the duo into an effective offensive weapon for the Generals a season ago. Most of Jordan’s goals came off assists by Singleton, and Stonewall experienced a two-week stretch last year where Singleton assisted on eight of Jordan’s goals.

The chemistry between Singleton and Jordan was instantaneous last spring, Singleton said, and she added that the two can essentially read each other’s minds when they’re on the pitch.

“It’s a different feeling. I’ve never had that connection with anybody else,” said Singleton, who considers Jordan to be one of her closest friends. “With my sister we obviously had a connection because we grew up together. With Emily it was instant. My sister, we know because we grew up playing together, so it was kind of like a learned habit. Emily and I, we’re just similar players so we jive together. I don’t have that with anybody else.”

Singleton does have another strong connection off the pitch, however — the bond she shares with her stepfather, Seth Whitaker.

Singleton said Whitaker played soccer semi-professionally and began teaching her some of the finer aspects of the sport when she was young, often driving home the importance of using her speed to her advantage by making Singleton sprint on her toes.

“I’ll just go outside whenever and we’ll just pass around the ball,” said Singleton, who used those friendly training sessions with Whitaker to compensate for her inability to play travel soccer. Or each summer he’ll be like ‘OK, your goal for the summer is to get ‘X’ amount of juggles, or to master these two moves so that you can bring it out in the season and make your game that much better.’

“We still do that all the time,” she added.

Singleton’s skill set should provide yet another big boost for Stonewall when the team hits the pitch this spring — the Generals are scheduled to open their season on March 24 with a home match against Nelson County — but she will be so much more than a goal scorer and facilitator this season.

Singleton was voted a team captain by her teammates at the start of practice for the spring season, and though Kwiatkowski has yet to see what Singleton can do on the pitch, her positive attitude and enthusiasm immediately caught his attention.

Stonewall assistant and head junior varsity coach Brittany Durrette said Singleton exudes the qualities of an effective leader.

“I have not witnessed her make one negative comment. Always positive. Always helping everybody out. She pays attention, helps somebody if they need help with technique or anything like that,” Durrette said. “We’re fortunate in that I think this year our captains are all that way.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com