WHEELERSBURG — No doubt, that along with Lynchburg-Clay, the Wheelersburg High School soccer squads were THE class of Division III in the Southeast District in 2020.
It’s only fitting then that three Pirate performers, two boys and one girl, garnered all-Ohio honors —which were announced last week by the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association.
For the boys, senior forward Aaron Jolly is a three-peat all-Ohioan and a repeat first-teamer —after twice being named the Division III Southeast District Player of the Year.
In addition, Pirate senior goalkeeper Eric Green gained second-team accolades, while for the Lady Pirates senior forward and leading scorer Laney Eller also earned second-team all-state.
“I am extremely proud of them both (Jolly and Green) for the recognition they have earned. Aaron (Jolly) and Eric (Green) have worked extremely hard year-round to become the best version of themselves on and off the field,” said Wheelersburg boys soccer coach Jon Estep. “Their leadership and work ethic they displayed along with the rest of our team have set a new standard of excellence in our program.”
While Green and Eller are first-time all-Ohio honorees, the speedy Jolly jumped from second-team all-state as a sophomore to the Division III SE District POY the past two —and automatic first-team all-Ohio honors as a result.
Jolly also graduates as Wheelersburg’s all-time goal-scoring leader, racking up 117 markers over his impressive four years.
He had 48 of them as a senior, and is the second Pirate in school history to twice be named Southern Ohio Conference Division II and Southeast District (Division III) Player of the Year —while also being the second player in program history to be named all-Ohio three times.
He is the third Wheelersburg player to be bestowed first-team all-Ohio.
And, this season, Jolly said the state award meant the most —because it came within the team concept of the Pirates’ historic 21-1-0 season, which culminated with the program’s first-ever regional championship.
That’s right, Wheelersburg went to the state semifinals for the first time ever — its only loss all year coming at the hands, or feet, of the Division III state champion Cincinnati Mariemont.
“Personally, being an all-Ohioan is more than I could ask for. It’s one thing that most high school athletes strive for, and to achieve it in back-to-back years is something I am proud of,” said Jolly. “Secondly, our run to state was a great opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the Wheelersburg program. Hopefully this season helped to kick-start a longer run of winning districts, regionals, etc. for years to come.”
Jolly also ended his Pirate playing days with 50 career assists, as he owns not only the most goals for a career, but he is tied for the most goals scored in a single Wheelersburg match.
Against South Webster this season, Jolly scored a goal eight seconds into the contest —thus tying the record for the fastest goal scored.
His top-10 school records list is lengthy, but he ranks second thru fifth in nine other categories —whether for assists or goals.
“Aaron earning all-Ohio for the third straight season is remarkable,” said Estep. “His ability to do the things he has done over his career and re-write the record books was truly a pleasure to watch and coach.”
While Jolly was easily the primary Pirates’ offensive force, very few goals got by Green.
The last line of defense for Wheelersburg’s iron wall of a back line, Green made 78 saves in his senior season —with a save percentage of 86-percent.
Prior to the state semifinal loss, the Wheelersburg defense allowed just seven goals all season — and posted 15 shutouts in its 22 total matches.
Until Mariemont amounted five goals, only Unioto with two had scored more than one goal in any one match against the Pirates all season.
“Eric being recognized is an attribute to the decision he made going into his sophomore year that he needed to make some adjustments to his training. Since then, he has worked hard to get to where he was this season. He was our vocal leader and the backbone of our team,” said Estep.
Mariemont swept the top Division III boys honors, as Luke Brothers was the Player of the Year with Erik Vanags claiming Coach of the Year.
Jolly was the only Division III first-teamer from the Southeast District, while Green was joined on the second team by North Adams forward Jayden Hesley, Ironton St. Joseph goalkeeper Jimmy Mahlmeister, Fairland goalkeeper and midfielder Jacob Polcyn, Rock Hill midfielder and forward Sam Simpson, and Lynchburg-Clay forward Connor Tyree.
With the exception of the sophomore Simpson, all of the other Southeast District honorees were all seniors.
Eller, for the Lady Pirates, said “making all-Ohio was one of my personal goals for this season.”
She was one of only two Wheelersburg seniors, as the other was Ellie Kallner —as they spearheaded the Pirates’ push to a third Division III district championship in four years.
Wheelersburg went 15-4-1, as Eller scored half of her 52 career goals this past season —along with 10 of her 27 career assists.
Eller ended her Lady Pirate career by finishing third in career assists and fourth in career goals.
“We had our team goals and accomplished most of them, but in my senior year I really wanted to be able to get recognized with the best in the state. I could not have done it without us working together, though. My teammates were awesome all year and I’m so proud of the season we had,” said Eller. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years and the Wheelersburg community has supported us throughout it all. Playing this year and never knowing if any game could be our last made this season so special. We all cherished every second of it and I loved this group of girls.”
Wheelersburg girls coach Todd Jarvis echoed Eller’s sentiments.
“It’s a credit to her season and the season we had as a team,” he said. “She is a great athlete and worked hard to make herself a better soccer player. She had a great season for us and it’s good to see her and other players get recognized for their efforts. She will be missed by us, but we wish her well as she continues through her senior season.”
Other ladies recognized from the Southeast District included the only first-team representative —junior defender Natasha Davidson of Lynchburg-Clay.
Besides Eller, second-teamers included Karissa Buttelwerth of North Adams, Sierra Mitten of Southeastern, Cadence Saunders of Leesburg Fairfield, Emma Whaley of Ironton St. Joseph, and Caitlyn Willis of Eastern Brown.
Of the six second-teamers, only Willis wasn’t a forward and only Saunders wasn’t a senior.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved