SJ_HOLLIFIELD

Stonewall Jackson’s Bailey Hollifield (12) prepares to go after a ball during a game. Hollifield is one of three Stonewall Jackson seniors who helped take the program to recent success.

Stonewall Jackson seniors Bailey Hollifield, Sidney Rubenstein and Gerardo Sanchez each helped the boys soccer program even with limited playing time.

Stonewall Jackson boys soccer coach Matt Burgwald said that each player was dedicated and worked hard every day.

“They all seemed to exude some leadership roles,” Burgwlad said. “I don’t know necessarily that this particular team was focused on leadership – more like teamwork. I didn’t have like a dominant player this go-round that had a leadership role in it, just more or less a bunch of people that were working together to try to get their team put together.”

Hollifield was entering his third season on varsity. He said that the camaraderie was the biggest memory he will take away from being on the team.

“Just being able to practice with the team and kind of have this brotherhood going on was my biggest memories,” Hollifield said. “I’ve been playing with them since (junior varsity), and I consider them like family. The team’s like family.”

Holifield missed last season due to a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“It was pretty tough,” he said. “It really sucked a lot, because I missed playing. ...When I played my first year of varsity for Matt (Burgwald) he brought me onto his travel team, and around that time I had my injury and I wasn’t able to play for most of the travel season that year.”

The Generals have put together back-to-back strong seasons and advanced to the Class 1 state quarterfinals both years.

Hollifield said it was special to be a part of the team for the last two years.

“It was amazing because everyone knows that we didn’t really have a very good soccer team before,” Hollifield said. “Then coach Matt (Burgwald) came along and kind of changed it around, and we were able to go to states back-to-back.”

Hollifield, who plays on defense, said he loves the physicality of the sport.

He said that he tries to be a leader for the team as well.

“I try to get them involved and make them better,” Hollifield said. “It’s kind of like coach Matt (Burgwald), he gives constructive criticism. A lot of people don’t like that, but I feel like it can help in some ways. I like to push them because they might not be able to see their potential but other people can see the potential they have and how good of a player they can be.”

This season was going to be Rubenstein’s first with the boys soccer team. Hollifield and Sanchez have both been with the program for four years, including playing at the junior varsity level as freshmen.

Hollifield said he’s enjoyed playing with Sanchez and seeing his game develop.

“Gerardo and I, we’ve been playing together since JV,” Hollifield said. “I’ve been able to watch him grow into a better player each year.”

Burgwald said that Sanchez was starting to come into his own and could have had a solid season for the Generals this year.

“Gerardo was an interesting player,” Burgwald said. “He was actually scheduled to play even more with respect to his senior year. He always had a very nice personality. He was a team player. He was starting to learn. He also showed up to every practice, always had a strong work ethic and had a real passion for soccer.”

Rubenstein has played numerous sports for the Generals over the years, including basketball and football. This was going to be his first season playing soccer.

Burgwald said he was looking forward to seeing how Rubenstein would have done before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the year.

“Sidney was a new addition to Stonewall,” Burgwald said. “He decided he wanted to come and try out as a backup goalkeeper. He seemed to get a grip on soccer quickly. He also was very well-liked by his team, had a good attitude and a dominating presence with his height. We were going to utilize him in several positions so that we could capitalize on his height. He was just a unique athlete to Stonewall.”

Hollifield said that he plans to attend Lord Fairfax Community College next year and then hopes to transfer to Lakeland University in Wisconsin after that.

He said that he hopes to play for a Shenandoah County travel soccer team, coached by Burgwald, in the fall and may even try to become a soccer coach.

Hollifield said that the sport of soccer has meant a lot to him.

“It’s been very important for me because it’s always given me that extra motivation to keep my grades up so I can play,” he said. “Because if I didn’t have the grades then I couldn’t play soccer. So that gave me the motivation to keep my grades up.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com