SANDPOINT — Not surprisingly from a team that came up just short of a state title, the Bulldogs had ample representation on the 4A All-Inland Empire League Girls Soccer team, as voted on recently by the leagues coaches.
Leading the way was Riley Walkington, who blasted 25 goals and dropped 10 dimes en route to her third Most Valuable Player award. One of the best players in the state, she’ll take her talents to Eastern Washington University next season.
“For the third year in a row, the coaches in the IEL unanimously nominated Riley as the MVP. All the credit goes to Riley for continuing to strive for excellence throughout her entire high school career,” said Bulldogs head coach Conor Baranski, who earned Coach of the Year honors. “On a team full of motivated and talented athletes, she’s never outworked on the field, she’s always the most competitive person. Her passion for improving is endless.”
Freshman defender Emma Thielbahr was voted Newcomer of the Year, part of a back four that was among the best in the state with all earning all-league honors.
“Emma does not play like a typical freshman,” admitted Baranski. “Emma had her best games against all of our toughest opponents, like Central Valley and Bishop Kelly, proving that she is a true competitor, and proving that she has a very bright future ahead of her in our program.”
Senior defender Yeo Yarnell was part of that stingy defense, which registered eight shutouts on the season. Yarnell shut down nearly everything that came her way all season.
“Yeo was one of our captains specifically because of her calming, consistent leadership. She’s one of the best outside backs in the state, and is so consistently good in her performances that there’s simply nothing to worry about when she’s near the ball,” claimed Baranski. “She’s rarely beaten 1 v 1. Once she gets the ball she makes excellent decisions, she gets into the attack with appropriately timed runs, and she’s never tired.”
Senior Jezza Hutto also played defender, but was so talented offensively that she often moved up into the attack, where she netted eight goals and dished out seven assists, sending in dangerous crosses often.
“I believe Jezza is one of the best outside backs in the state. She’s a tenacious 1 v 1 defender, and loves to get in on the attack. She also strikes the ball as well as any player I have ever coached” praised Baranski. “Her leadership was essential to our success this year. With her athleticism, technical skill and grit, she is going to have a lot of success as she transitions to college soccer.”
Senior defender Mya Darling anchored the middle of the defense, using a high soccer IQ to quell many a dangerous attack, as the Bulldogs nonleague schedule was all bigger schools.
“We saw in the state championship game that we had the best defensive unit in all of 4A soccer, holding Bishop Kelly to zero goals in the run of play,” recalled Baranski. “Mya really stepped up in our toughest games, and I am so proud of the game she had against BK because she frustrated Lauren Elwer, a Gonzaga commit, every single time BK attacked. She reads the game so well that she stops danger before it arises.”
Rounding out the all-league selections is junior Kiley Webster, who tallied two goals and an assist while patrolling the midfield with solid pace.
“Kiley does a lot that a casual observer wouldn’t notice because a lot of what she does is simple, which is a lot easier said than done. She is an excellent center midfielder because she takes quality touches, completes simple passes, and gives her teammates an easy option when they need it,” said Baranski. “On defense, she also plays a lot bigger than her small stature, winning tackles and harassing players much bigger than her.”
4A ALL-IEL GIRLS SOCCER TEAM
MVP — Riley Walkington, Sandpoint, 12.
Newcomer of the Year — Emma Thielbahr, Sandpoint, 9.
Coach of the Year — Conor Baranski, Sandpoint. All-league: Makayla Higbee, Lakeland, 12; Hailey Farley, Lakeland, 10; Sammi Pennick, Lakeland, 11; Yeo Yarnell, Sandpoint, 12; Jezza Hutto, Sandpoint, 12; Mya Darling, Sandpoint, 12; Kiley Webster, Sandpoint, 11; Serena Strawn, Moscow, 10; Ava Jakich-Kunze, Moscow, 10; Gabby Eldridge, Moscow, 11; Gracee Gropp, Moscow, 12.