QUICKSBURG – A year removed from almost not having enough players for a team, Stonewall Jackson’s girls soccer team had a remarkable turnaround season.
The Generals, aided by a strong group of freshman, won 16 games, finished second in the Shenandoah District and secured a home game in regionals.
“It was a great season,” Stonewall Jackson first-year coach Ginny Dellinger said. “These kids had set their sights high, and the parents set their sights high. And I think at the end there was probably a letdown because we probably had too high of expectations. But in the final analysis, we really had a great season.”
The Generals only had 15 players on last year’s squad and had to recruit players with no experience just to fill out the roster. They struggled to win games, but this year’s team was much different and went 16-4-1. Bolstered by a group of freshmen, the team had success right from the start.
Dellinger, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Girls Soccer Coach of the Year, was familiar with the freshman class, as she had been coaching them in the Shenandoah County Soccer League, a travel soccer program, for a number of years. When former Stonewall Jackson girls soccer coach Hap Kwiatkowski stepped down after last season, Dellinger said it was a perfect situation for her to step into.
“I’ve been working with this freshman group for many years, three, four years or more,” Dellinger said. “And it’s my baby and I wanted to see it be successful. And when Hap (Kwiatkowski) left, you kind of thought, whose going to take this on? I just thought well, I don’t want to see it fail. I want to see it succeed and I know that of anybody I’m probably going to give it more effort than anybody else. I’m more invested because I love these kids. And I’ve been working with them for so many years. So mainly that is the thing that drives me is wanting to see these kids that I’ve invested in have success. And I love the game and I enjoy working with the kids.”
By the end of the season the Generals had nine freshman on the team, all of whom saw valuable playing time. Stonewall Jackson’s entire starting defense were freshmen.
Dellinger said the freshmen gave the team a real boost this season.
“They have such a bright future,” Dellinger said. “The main thing I think they bring is aggression and skill. In travel, it is so much more aggressive than in rec leagues. And in some ways, it’s more aggressive than high school for a lot of the games. So they bring like a never-quit attitude. A lot of the older players are playing with skill, but they don’t necessarily have that bulldog aspect. These freshmen do not give up, and that’s why you see a lot of them playing on defense; they will not let you by. And (freshman forward) Kylene (Franklin) she’s a bulldog on offense. They have so much skill, but they also have so much heart. And I think that’s the difference they are bringing to the team.”
The Generals won their first two games but then lost two tough games in a row. They lost by one goal to Stuarts Draft, a team that had been in the state final the year before, and by one goal to Robert E. Lee. They won 14 of their next 15 games, the only non-win being a tie with Stuarts Draft.
Dellinger said that once the younger players and older players began to play together more they became better and better. The Generals had only four seniors, including the area’s top scorer, LuLu Funkhouser, and Dellinger said that the seniors showed great leadership this season.
“The travel team that the (freshmen) are on had four undefeated seasons,” Dellinger said. “They hadn’t lost a game in two years coming in (to high school). So coming up against a team like Stuarts Draft was tough for them. But (seniors) LuLu (Funkhouser) and J.J. (Dellinger) and Sue (Garber) and those girls they had had experience with bigger teams. I think they showed really good leadership and they were happy. Everybody was happy to come together, which is something you don’t always see on a team.”
Dellinger also has a daughter on the team, freshman defender Eli. Ginny Dellinger said it can be challenging at times coaching her daughter at the high school level and that she hopes that the positives of coaching her daughter outweigh any negatives.
Despite losing some talented players to graduation, Ginny Dellinger said she feels good about the future of Stonewall Jackson’s program.
“I think we are doing nothing but building from here,” she said. “It’s great and the parents are excited. I’ve talked to the parents and they were like you know next year’s still going to be great. We’ve got all these kids coming up that are talented and we’ve got excitement in the community. So yeah I’m looking to build on (this past season) from here and see what more we can do. I’d love to be in exactly the same position every season where we’ve had a great season and make an attempt, whether we make it far or we don’t. Let’s have a great season and try to get better every year.”