I can’t pinpoint one strength or weakness she has. She is just so phenomenal about what she does. —American Fork head coach Derek Dunn.
AMERICAN FORK — Heading into the 2017 season, the American Fork High girls soccer team was in a state of upheaval. The Cavemen, coming off what was then the finest playoff run in school history, a 5A semifinals appearance, had lost 11 seniors.
Many a team would have buckled under the sheer unknown and chocked up the season as a rebuilding year.
Not American Fork. The Cavemen simply reloaded and proceeded to dominate the competition en route to the school’s first state title.
Many a girl played an integral part in that championship run, none more so than the Deseret News’ 2017 Ms. Soccer, Jamie Shepherd.
The team’s leading goal scorer, the junior midfielder netted a team-high 13 goals, Shepherd was incredible this season.
Even the most casual of soccer observers, had they taken in an American Fork contest, would have noticed her talent and ability.
“Jamie has the skills and she loves to show ‘em,” said American Fork head coach Derek Dunn. “She is our puppet master. She controlled our attack and the middle. (Jamie) did a great job bringing the defense and forwards together. She was that connection for us.”
“Her vision is absolutely amazing,” added Dunn. “Just the way she controls the ball. She makes her decisions quick, makes them before the ball even comes. She could be the whole package, if she isn’t already.”
In addition to her goals, Shepherd recorded an assist in almost every game this season (she actually scored or assisted on a goal in every Cavemen contest).
“I can’t pinpoint one strength or weakness she has,” said Dunn. “She is just so phenomenal about what she does.”
For all her ability, however, Shepherd is as humble as they come.
“She has the skills but at the same time doesn’t flaunt them,” said Dunn. “She’s embarrassed almost (about winning Ms. Soccer). She feels like this is kind of putting a target on her back and she doesn’t want to take anything away from her team.”
“Being on such a great team and being surrounded by such good players, you could have chosen anyone,” said Shepherd. “(Being named Ms. Soccer) is a big thing. It definitely means something special.”
The truth about Shepherd is that, aside from her obvious ability, she is as great of a person and teammate as she is a soccer player.
“Jamie doesn’t leave anyone stranded,” said Dunn. “Jamie is the first one to practice and the last one to leave. Jamie is the first one to come to me and tell me ‘Coach you’re being a little too hard on this player, or maybe you can say it like this to her, or maybe you should talk to this girl.’ She really is the big sister of all the girls. She wants to make sure everyone is doing well.”
“She is a team player and it showed this year,” added Dunn. “She really held down the team when we needed it, and she stepped down when others were stepping up. She supported them. She made sure everyone knew that they had a role and a part (to play) on this team.”
Perhaps the best example of that, according to Dunn, came in a late-season game against the Lone Peak Knights.
The Cavemen were coming off their first and only loss of the season, courtesy of the Bingham Miners, and things weren’t going great in Highland. Lone Peak actually held a goal advantage, with timing rapidly ticking away.
American Fork managed to net a goal forcing the game into extra time, where Shepherd took over.
American Fork's Jamie Shepherd dribbles the ball during the 6A semifinal girls soccer game against Layton at Juan Diego High School in Draper, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
"Jamie came into overtime and scored a miraculous goal that we all knew was coming,’ said Dunn. “That (win) pushed us into the playoffs.”
Shepherd will play one final season for the Cavemen before heading to BYU, a school she said has been her dream to attend.
Before that, however, she hopes to “be more aggressive going forward, create more options and score more goals, both for myself and by setting up my forwards.”
“This game is just so much fun to play," added Shepherd. "You get to be creative, and just be you on the field. That makes it special. That and I get to play with 18 of my best friends.”