It’s always a big deal if a team has a single player elected for a statewide recognition, but it’s even more impressive when the same team has three players honored.
Benjamin Russell’s girls soccer team did just that as three juniors were named honorable mention for the United Soccer Coaches Association Alabama chapter team. The coaches association selects the top players from around the state regardless of classification, and Kylee Stark, Jordan Osborne and Abigale Sims were all picked as honorable mentions.
“This just shows Benjamin Russell is doing the right things and these girls have put in the time and effort with us, with their club teams or on their own,” Benjamin Russell coach Lee Wagoner said. “All three work tremendously at their craft to be the best players they can be. They’re the leaders of this 11th-grade group; I have a huge group of rising seniors and they want to do big things. To be noticed by the soccer coaches’ community of Alabama, that says you’re turning heads.”
Stark was selected as a defender despite playing the defensive center midfielder role. She has spent time in all the defensive positions for the Wildcats and Wagoner said she can do them all well. Although she’s not a loud player, Stark always gives her best effort.
“Kylee is not a very vocal leader but she leads by example,” Wagoner said. “She gets out there and plays with great intensity. She’s one that hardly ever comes out of the game. She’s so physically fit and gives huge minutes for us; she’s just a great all-around kid.”
Despite being involved in several extracurricular activities, Stark continues to make soccer a top priority.
Although Osborne didn’t score quite as many goals as she did in years prior, she was always one of Benjamin Russell’s go-to girls offensively and she was selected as an honorable mention forward. Like Stark, Osborne is also very versatile and showed she could play in the midfield when needed.
“She’s great at pressing that back line of the defense to either allow herself a shot or receive the ball and open up areas of play for her teammates,” Wagoner said. “That’s one of her most under-looked qualities is her passing ability. She’s great at finding open teammates, so she can create her own chances but she also puts her teammates in great positions to get a shot as well.”
Sims is the one who became the offensive force for Benjamin Russell this season. Prior to the season being cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sims had already scored 19 goals in just 11 games. She was on pace to score more than 40 on the season after having an already impressive 30-plus goals as a sophomore the year prior.
“She was just on a tear,” Wagoner said. “Abigale is one that moved up to the varsity level as a seventh-grader and she is truly one of the best all-around players I’ve seen come through our program. She’s another that hardly ever had to be subbed out of the game. She really just lives, breathes and sleeps soccer and she loves it. She’s a tremendous student of the game.”