Fort Osage head coach Michael Brown had a heck of a first season at the helm of the girls soccer team.
His Indians finished with a 16-3 record, the best mark in the history of the program. Not only that, but they defeated Staley for the first time ever and earned a share of the Suburban Middle Six Conference title with Staley, which was its first since 2004.
In addition to the team accolades, two Fort Osage players were honored. Sophomore Sophia Smith was chosen the Middle Six Defensive Player of the Year and freshman sensation Aliyah Ayala earned Middle Six Co-Player of Year honors. Both were also first-team all-conference selections along with senior Emma Hogland and junior Mya Sams.
Ayala came in and made an immediate impact for Fort Osage as she set a school record with 41 goals and added 11 assists, establishing herself as one of the top offensive threats in the area.
Brown said Ayala came to the team with a natural ability to score and possessed some talents that are not often seen from a freshman.
“She’s just a natural finisher,” Brown said. “She has great vision and can place it into the back of the net from anywhere off crosses, breakaways, whatever the case may be. And she had the rare ability to make shots with both of her feet, which is very rare for a freshman.”
Ayala’s impact can’t be understated. She helped the Indians tally 6.21 points per game and took the scoring pressure off junior forward Megan Lyon, who was the team’s leading goal scorer last season. In fact, Ayala and Lyon formed quite the tandem up top. And it all started with their first practice together, when they instantly clicked.
“We all clicked really well this season,” Ayala said of Lyon, a second-team all-conference pick. “Megan gave me tips on different things and I gave her tips. Megan stepped up and help me out.”
While Ayala powered the offense, Smith was the key cog in the Fort Osage defense machine. The Indians totaled 11 shutouts and only surrendered 13 goals in 19 games.
Some of that success can be credited to Smith, who switched from a center midfielder to a center back position. It was a move that she asked for, but she wasn’t used to. It ended up paying dividends for the Indians.
“I was really surprised that I got (Defensive Player of the Year),” said Smith, who added three goals and five assists. “I had just switched positions and it was tough at first. I asked Coach Brown for the switch so I could be more involved in the offense and the defense. I really liked it a lot.”
Her toughness and height and length made Smith a natural for her new position, Brown said.
“She wins the ball pretty high up the field,” Brown said. “It takes the pressure off everyone behind her. Defensively, she fantastic, but she has great vision and is great on the ball. She makes very, very good passes going forward.
“She’s very tall and she’s stronger than she looks. She covers a lot of ground with her long strides, She doesn’t get beat very often, but when she does, she can catch the girl pretty quick.”
And that led to her big season, and Smith hopes for more of the same next year.
“This season was great,” Smith said. “I was sad to see a lot of my senior friends go, but I am really look forward to playing with many of the same girls that played this year. We all really work really well together.”