Yorktown girls’ soccer Coach Vicki Brunt received the call on a Monday in February, less than four weeks before the start of the season. Meghan Flynn had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee during a club soccer match, leaving the Patriots without their All-Met senior center forward and squeezing some of the optimism out of a season that had the potential for unprecedented success.
In Flynn, the Patriots lost a Tennessee recruit who netted 30 goals and had 18 assists in leading them to the Virginia AAA Northern Region final and a state tournament berth last season.
“Teams always change from year to year with graduations and transfers, so you’re kind of prepared to fill gaps and rebuild your team,” Brunt said. “But when you lose a kid like that, a part of you does think ‘Gosh, how are we going to replace that?’”
The answer will start with the play and leadership of seniors Alex Puletti and Emma Shumway. On a team known for its strong offensive prowess, the duo combined for 33 of the team’s 94 goals last year. Their success continued in the season’s first two games, as Puletti totaled three goals and an assist as the Patriots’ new center forward and Shumway scored once in wins against Langley and West Springfield.
“We scored four goals in both games, so it shows our offense is still there, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Puletti said. “I normally play wing midfield, so switching to center forward to play Meghan’s spot is a little different because you have all of the defenders behind you rather than running onto balls at the wing. But I love offense and scoring goals, and Meghan has been giving some good pointers.”
Flynn, who was still voted as a team captain this season, has attended almost every practice, serving as a key voice in developing the junior-laden Patriots. In an effort to keep her team hungry before the March 19 season opener, Brunt elected not to have the Patriots compete in preseason scrimmages, instead choosing to focus on building the team’s chemistry through hard practices.
In that time, Brunt has seen flashes from evolving players and new faces primed to have a breakout season similar to Flynn’s. Kendall Logan stands as one of the area’s fastest wing players, Audrey Denkler is rounding back into form after missing her sophomore season with a broken leg and North Carolina junior transfer Bella Krider scored goals in each of Yorktown’s first two games.
“Nobody outside of our team really expected Meghan to have the junior season she did when we moved her from the left outside to center forward,” Brunt said. “Our other kids have the ability; it’s just a matter of tapping into that ability and using Meghan’s breakout and loss as motivation.”
Defensively, Monica Thom is beginning her first season as the full-time goalie after splitting duties last year while recording 137 saves. The George Washington signee came up big in Yorktown’s upset of Stone Bridge in last year’s Northern Region semifinals and will again be relied upon to use her athleticism to fend off shots and opponents.
“When we lost Meghan, I felt horrible for her and we knew it would hurt our team, but we’re confident that we can also still be successful,” Shumway said. “We’re still learning how each other plays but with each practice, you can see things coming together.”
Chantilly boasts All-Met senior Laila Gray and speedy junior Kayla Christian at the forward positions as the Chargers look to defend their Northern Region title. . . . Briar Woods returns all but one player from last year’s state finalist team. . . . Westfield and Yorktown will face off on Tuesday. . . . Junior forward Emily Littell, who earned second-team All-Met honors last year, recorded three goals and an assist in Loudoun County’s 4-1 win against Loudoun Valley. . . . Forest Park knocked off Virginia Beach power Cox after falling 1-0 to a tough Kellam team.
1. Chantilly (14-3-3)
2. Battlefield (21-2-1)
3. Briar Woods (19-5-1)
4. W.T. Woodson (12-6-1)
5. Woodbridge (16-5-1)
6. Westfield (14-2-1)
7. Yorktown (19-3)
8. Loudoun County (11-4-4)
9. Broad Run (10-8-3)
10. Forest Park (16-4-1)
(Records from last season)