MVP. Most valuable player. The naming of the best player in the game is a time-honored tradition, practiced across the sporting world. At the conclusion of every season, one player is chosen, picked out from many, and honored due to his or her impact on the game and the importance to his or her team. For girls high school soccer in Utah that process includes the singling out of four players, one from each classification. The four ladies listed below not only warrant such appreciation, they have earned every bit of it, both for their individual accomplishments as well as for their impact on championship teams.
Olivia Wade, Davis
It can be difficult to stand out as a Dart. After all, the Davis High School girls soccer team roster has been, and frankly still is, chocked full of current and future Division I athletes from the likes of 2015 Ms. Soccer award winner Haylee Cacciacarne to 2015 MVP Ireland Dunn. Not to mention current Dart and future BYU Cougar Mikayla Colohan. And yet Olivia Wade has had no problem making a name for herself in her time in Kaysville, most notably due to her gift for scoring.
Wade tallied a state-best 42 goals this season, a total that gave her an average of two goals per game.
“She is very versatile and extremely technical,” Davis head coach Souli Phongsavath said of Wade’s scoring prowess. The Davis head coach continued saying, “We asked her to score more this year,” a notion Phongsavath chuckled about considering Wade netted 36 goals during her sophomore season.
Phongsavath made it clear that Wade’s scoring ability is but a small part of what makes her such a special player.
“Olivia’s drive to win is incredible. She is one of the most competitive girls I have ever seen, and she just pulls her teammates along with her.”
Wade, who was key to the Darts' the success all season long, came up big for Davis come playoff time. The forward netted at least a goal in all but one of the Darts playoff games. The only game in which she didn’t score was Davis’ 2-0 quarterfinal win over Weber.
Wade’s goal in the first half of the title game against Fremont gave the Darts some needed separation, both on the scoreboard and physiologically. ““The plan was to score as fast as we could. We got it down there and I got it in. As soon as we got that first goal in the game was over,” Wade said of her score.
Her passion for the game was made perfectly clear when she was asked about the title game victory.
“All the hard work we put in paid off. To be state champs three years in a row is just unbelievable. I’m just so proud of my school, the girls and my coaching staff.”
Dakota Smith, Timpview
If Disney is in the market for a plot to its latest inspirational sports flick they need look no further than Dakota Smith’s senior campaign.
The forward, coming off a stellar junior campaign that saw her score a team-best 11 goals, experienced a host of personal struggles to start her senior season. Her struggles almost led her to quit the Thunderbirds girls soccer team, but thanks in part to support from her teammates and coaches, Smith persevered, and subsequently led Timpview to the school’s first-ever state championship. The title run included wins over a great Bonneville team, the defending champion Skyline Eagles, and an on-fire East squad.
“Dakota is very humble, big hearted, and unselfish with the ball,” Timpview head coach Eric Brady said. “Every year she has gotten better and better. She might have had, dare I say, the best high school playoff performance ever.”
Smith, after netting only eight goals during the regular season, exploded for hat tricks in the Thunderbirds quarterfinal and semifinal matches, and assisted on both Timpview goals in their 2-0 title game win over East.
“There is shooting and there is finishing and Dakota is a finisher,” Brady said. “She is disciplined, her shot is low and accurate, and all the goals she scored were finishes. She had all three of our goals in the win over Bonneville, and each score came in the last eight minutes of the game. Then she had our first three goals in the win over Skyline. Those goals really gave us the edge we needed. And she assisted on both goals in the final. That attests to who she is as a player.”
Smith finishes her career at Timpview with 34 goals, and she secured for herself a part of the school’s history.
“It wasn’t your fairytale season. Dakota struggled this year,” Brady said. “When we need her she was there. She kept her poise, did her job and put the ball in the net time and again.”
AnnaMaria DiGeronimo, Juan Diego
As a captain, and the team’s second leading scorer (13 goals), AnnaMaria DiGeronimo played a vital role for the Soaring Eagle in a season that ended in the best possible way, with a 3A championship.
“I have known AnnaMaria for three years,” Juan Diego head coach Daniel Cavar said. “She has always had something special. She is a leader, a great person, and she has given her all in every game she has played.”
The midfielder was part of a Juan Diego squad that cruised through its 3A competition en route to the title game, a game that matched the Soaring Eagle against the Logan Grizzlies. While she didn’t net a goal in the title game, AnnaMaria scored four goals throughout the course of the playoffs, and she played an essential role in the title game creating scoring opportunities for her teammates.
“She plays midfield for us, and has always been able to create opportunities both with and without the ball,” said Cavar. “AnnaMaria has been hurt for her entire high school career, with a back injury, and that forced her to to learn ball control. She has become very technical and that skill allowed her to come up big for us when we needed her.”
DiGeronimo's ball skills are but a small part of what makes her such an important part of the Juan Diego girl’s soccer team.
“She has filled that leadership role. She will not give up. When things didn’t go the way we wanted she took that as a learning opportunity. She is very positive and believed great things could be achieved. That led a lot of players to look up to her and she was such a great example. AnnaMaria had a great impact on the team,” Cavar said of his star midfielder.
The senior finishes her Soaring Eagle career with 24 goals in 59 games, to go along with a championship, but it was her impact on her fellow teammates that Cavar believed would matter the most.
“I made her one of the captains because she always stood out. She has that drive to succeed and it’s amazing to see how people can relate to that. AnnaMaria is a kind person, a kind soul, and it is nice to have someone for the kids to believe in.”
Makenna Mumford, Waterford
When asked about star junior Makenna Mumford, Waterford head coach Tim Dolbin couldn’t say enough.
“Makenna was super critical to our success this year. She is a fabulous teammate. She is unique, versatile and such as talented player. We are looking forward to her serving as our captain next season.”
This past season, Mumford was literally everywhere for the Ravens.
“She is such a physically strong player, but she is also fast. Usually players are either strong or fast, not both,” said Dolbin. “Makenna’s talent allowed me to use her as a defensive back, midfielder, and forward. She kicked free kicks and goal kicks for us. She is a player that isn’t afraid to take the ball out of the air, and she is also a set-piece player. We used her everywhere.”
Mumford netted 20 goals this season to lead all Waterford goal scorers, a total that includes four postseason scores. The most important goal of her season came in the title game against the Rowland Hall Winged Lions. Mumford, on a Waterford free kick, beat the Rowland Hall keeper to the ball, and subtly nudged the ball with her head just enough to have it soar over the goalie and into the goal.
“Sami (Morris) sent the ball in and I heard the keeper say ‘Mine’ and I thought ‘I am going to get there before her.’ I just barely touched it with the back of my head and I turned around and saw it cross the line,” Mumford said of her score.
That goal, along with another scored by Anna Wood, gave Waterford a two-goal advantage and in the second half Dolbin moved Mumford to sweeper in an attempt to limit the Winged Lions' scoring opportunities.
“We moved her in the back to lock it down so we could ride out our 2-0 lead,” said Dolbin. “She just did an amazing job and limited Rowland Hall’s chances, leading us to victory.”
While her accomplishments throughout the season, and in the playoffs, did more than enough to earn her the title of MVP, Dolbin noted that it was Mumford, as a person and a teammate, that made her truly special.
“She is a fabulous teammate. Always positive. Always up front,” said Dolbin. “Sometimes when you have a talented player they can see themselves as better than everyone else but that was not the case at all with Makenna. She elevated her teammates' play and just helped to make everyone better.”