Coming into 2019 not many people would have thought the Williamson Lady Warriors soccer team would be very good.
Coming off a disappointing 2018 year that saw them play in 19 games, while winning none of those contests, didn’t breed much hope for Williamson the following year.
From a team who has never had a winning season in program history, Coach Jason Hungerford had one goal heading into the season that blossomed into a team pushing themselves into a spot in the District Playoffs.
“Our mentaillity wasn’t about winning, it was about improving on the way the league looks at us,” coach Hungerford said. “We were just looking to improve.”
Williamson scored 17 goals, which is not a typo, in 18 games and struggled to find offense at any point in the year. With four players graduating that season, Williamson would seem to be on the bottom of projected win-totals in 2019. Too bad no one told Williamson that.
A change to some of the positions players held during the past season made a big difference for the Lady Warriors, especially on the defensive end.
“We had a lot of different girls who changed the way they play. (Scout) Able and (Charly) Slusser, who last year, were lost, so we moved them to defensive positions and moved others farther up on the field,” coach Hungerford said.
The players who moved around thrived in their new positions, and Able and Slusser both were key pieces on the defensive end for the Williamson team.
One of the biggest factors in the turnaround season isn’t one that you would see on paper and coach Hungerford stressed how he was trying to build a culture of “family” that seemed to improve team chemistry from not only the players but the coaching staff as well.
“Family mentality was something I really wanted to work on,” coach Hungerford said. “Now that the schools are split, we don’t see that anymore. I have really wanted to bring that back. Even with the 0-18 season, more of our focus was our team mentality.“
In 2019 a new group of players came out for the team, with the roster expanding to 18 players from just 11 the season before. This included a key addition between the goal posts with Abby Ackley playing her first season of varsity soccer as a junior and making a big impact.
“Abby Ackley made a big change being comfortable in the goal,” coach Hungerford said. “Her hand-eye coordination was outstanding. She was just a natural for it. She’s played hurt and she is overall a great athlete. She gave our girls a comfort level that we didn’t necessarily have last season. They knew if the ball got by a little bit they knew Abby would be there.”
Another change Williamson saw was an increased role for one of the area’s best soccer players Claire Miller. In 2018, Miller scored six goals (which led the team) but in 2019 she kicked it into a whole new gear.
Miller scored 17 goals to go along with four assists on the year. An offense that was nearly non-existent in 2018 became one of their greatest assets in their next season and was described by the coach Hungerford as one of the most coachable athletes he has ever coached.
“I wish I could turn back time to play soccer two years earlier. She never thought soccer was her thing,” coach Hungerford said. “She is one of the most coachable kids I have ever been around. Claire could come in at halftime and I could tell her what to do and she would do it word-for-word, step-by-step right after.”
Another player who was a difference-maker during the season was senior Kristen Green, who was absolutely phenomenal on both offense and defense. Green scored 13 goals to go along with four assists and 16 steals.
“I’ve coached six seasons and never once had an athlete who can take what you say and translate onto the field. Greeny has played in Addison since she was a youth which was really a help,” coach Hungerford said. “I never considered myself head coaching material. It was nice to bounce ideas off of her. It was easier for her to translate to other players. It was almost like she wasn’t only a player and my captain, but also like a third coach.”
Williamson seemed to falter out of the gates in 2019 and it looked like it may be a repeat from the season before, but with all the pieces slowly coming together a flip switched on Sept. 28, and a once 1-7-1 team was about to go on a tear of epic proportions.
The Williamson offense was a completely different beast after that game, and after averaging just two goals a game in their first nine contests, went on a tear to end the season averaging nearly four goals a game in their final eight games.
With some of the heavy hitters graduating, Wiliamson will have five new players on the roster who are expected to make an impact including Ruby Sherman, Keyana Thomas, Maddison Huzey, Kyra Daley and Maddie Milliard.
With so much youth on the team, Williamson may take a step back in the win-total column, but should have strong building blocks for the next few seasons to help the Lady Warriors compete in a tough NTL.
“We should have a decent season,” said coach Hungerford. “But we might take a step back this year because of our youth I think.”