Youth and experience providing perfect blend for Generals
QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson’s girls soccer team has a strong blend of youth and experience this season and so far the combination has worked really well.
The Generals are off to a solid start including a 9-0 Shenandoah District win over Buffalo Gap on Tuesday. Stonewall Jackson had eight different players score a goal or make an assist. Seven of the eight were either freshmen or seniors.
The team has four seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and six freshmen. Stonewall Jackson coach Ginny Dellinger said the team has bonded together really well.
“It’s really cool to have (the freshmen) mixed in,” Dellinger said. “They’re talented on their own, but to have them mixed in with these experienced players, they’re picking up good habits that you almost need on a soccer team.”
The usual suspects are leading the way for the Generals as seniors LuLu Funkhouser, who had four goals in Tuesday’s victory, and J.J. Dellinger play a big role in the team’s success.
Perhaps the biggest role the seniors are accomplishing is leadership. Stonewall Jackson freshman forward Kylene Franklin said that the seniors are setting a great example for the younger players.
“The seniors have really been able to guide us to work hard,” Franklin said. “I feel like they’re really preparing us for our future years in this sport.”
Ginny Dellinger said that Funkhouser, a forward, was very unselfish and showed great leadership in Tuesday’s victory.
“LuLu can play anywhere on the field. I don’t know what I’ll do without her next year,” Ginny Dellinger said. “I mean she can drop back. She took the initiative tonight. I (told the team) if we get a comfortable lead, I’d like to get some of these other girls experience on the front that are playing midfield and defense a lot. And as soon as (Funkhouser) gets a few goals and we got in a comfortable place, I didn’t have to tell her, she moved right back and she sent somebody up.”
Funkhouser has been the team’s top scorer all four of her years on varsity, and has had seven goals in the last two games, but she said it’s been great this season to have so much talent around her.
“The pressure has been lifted,” Funkhouser said. “I know I can get an assist as well as goals. I know that someone is always going to be there to finish them.”
The six freshmen, Katie Jordan, Franklin, Eli Dellinger, Julia Biller, Morgan Gibson and keeper Sarah Streett have not only made an impact, but they have given the team depth that the Generals didn’t have last season.
The Generals almost didn’t have a team last year and only had 13 players on the squad. They struggled to win games, but this season they are off to a 4-2 start.
Funkhouser said that the six freshman have been a huge boost to the team.
“It’s been great to have someone else that you know you can trust,” Funkhouser said. “You can pass them the ball. They have the skills and they can score the goal or they can pass it to another player and let them score.”
Ginny Dellinger said that the leadership of juniors Casey Gibson and Virginia Biller, both three-year starters, have also been important to the team.
On Tuesday, the Generals were playing without two of their defenders, freshman Julia Biller and sophomore Chloe Monroe, due to illness and injury. Ginny Dellinger said that the Generals used a different alignment and had to move players around and that versatility is one of the team’s biggest strengths.
“It’s amazing. It’s a gift because if somebody’s tired I can drop ’em back,” she said. “If Kylene (Franklin) gets gassed, I can put her on defense for a while. Her and Katie (Jordan) are practically interchangeable. …I probably have six girls that can play anywhere on the field and the others have the skill to play, they might not necessarily have the stamina. But it’s a gift to have so many. We will be missing some girls next year, but we’ve got them this year. So we’re going to go as far as we can go.”
In the win against Buffalo Gap Franklin, Jordan and J.J. Dellinger each had a goal and an assist. Morgan Gibson and senior Susannah Garber each had a goal and Casey Gibson and Eli Dellinger had an assist each.
The Generals advanced all the way to the state semifinals in girls basketball this past season, and the team has five players from that squad on the soccer team. Funkhouser said she wants the momentum from basketball to carry over to the whole soccer season.
“It feels like we’ve been together for so long now,” Funkhouser said. “And I just want to keep going and keep going.”