2016 Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Stonewall’s Funkhouser continues rapid rise in sophomore season
QUICKSBURG – LuLu Funkhouser quickly emerged as the premier scoring threat for Stonewall Jackson High School’s girls soccer team in 2015, when she ended her freshman season with 17 goals and 12 assists, marks that led all local girls soccer players.
As her sophomore season began to approach this past spring, however, Funkhouser began feeling a bit uneasy, and the internal questions began to come. How would she follow up on her stellar freshman season? Would she be able to match that production again in 2016, even as teams, now familiar with her scoring prowess, began centering their defensive game plans around slowing down the Generals’ sophomore?
“Honestly, I was a little scared,” Funkhouser said last week.
With that fear, though, came something else.
“I just had determination to do better,” she said.
Funkhouser rode that determination to even greater heights in 2016. Armed with a year of varsity experience and surrounded by a close-knit group of Generals, Funkhouser ended her sophomore season with 24 goals and 19 assists in 17 matches. Her lofty numbers led Stonewall in both categories, and her 19 assists were the most of any other local soccer player, boy or girl, this season.
It was a spectacular encore to a strong debut, one worthy of The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2016 Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors for the second straight season, and one powered by factors Funkhouser couldn’t quite put her finger on.
“Honestly I have no clue,” Funkhouser responded when asked what enabled her to put up even loftier numbers in 2016. “I think passing, we just worked well together and that was the key to everything. It just made everything flow better. I had more goals, everyone else had more goals. It was just great.”
Like she had her freshman season, Funkhouser continuously honed her craft in preparation of her sophomore year through her participation with the Shenandoah Fire travel team – coached by her father, Lawrence – and by sharpening her accuracy in her backyard by firing shots at an undersized soccer goal, and she adhered to the instruction she’s been hearing from her dad since she was little – “Shoot, LuLu, shoot!”
“I think too many people just wait too long or they just think about it too much, and you just need to get the ball off your foot and shoot,” said Funkhouser, who had at least an assist or a goal in every match for Stonewall this spring, while directly contributing to 43 of the Generals’ 53 goals scored.
But unlike her high school soccer debut, she said, this year’s edition of the Generals felt like a family on the field.
That was an emphasis for the members of Stonewall’s team this year, she said, one that reaped benefits for all involved.
“I know if you don’t have a close team it’s tough to put together good things on the field,” said Funkhouser, a first team all-Conference 35 and all-Shenandoah District selection.
Of all her teammates, Funkhouser holds a particularly strong bond with classmate and good friend J.J. Dellinger, who finished with 14 goals and nine assists and also was a first team selection in the conference and district.
“Every sport we play we feed off each other,” said Funkhouser, who also competes alongside Dellinger on Stonewall’s cross country and girls basketball teams. “We talk to each other, we communicate with each other. It just works great.”
Funkhouser said she and Dellinger were constantly feeding assists to each other throughout the season. The trio of Funkhouser, Dellinger and senior Brittany Singleton (10 goals) combined to score 48 goals for Stonewall Jackson in 2016.
“I think J had a bunch of my assists. Brittany had a bunch of my assists,” Funkhouser said. “At least one time a game I felt like me and J had like a wall pass going on down the field.”
Stonewall went on to win 12 games this past spring while going 11-3 in the Shenandoah District, a feat that second-year head coach Hap Kwiatkowski said exceeded his expectations at season’s end. The Generals’ success was short-lived in the playoffs, however, as they squandered an early two-goal lead in a season-ending loss to Madison County in the Conference 35 tournament quarterfinals.
Stonewall figures to return a wealth of experience next season – the Generals graduated only three seniors in Singleton, Kelsey Kokkonen and Kinsey Wilk – and Funkhouser said she hopes to see the team push deeper into the postseason in 2017.
As for herself, Funkhouser isn’t quite ready to turn her attention to next spring quite yet.
“I’m just letting this sink in,” she said. “It was just an awesome season. I just wish we would’ve gone farther.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com