Coach D’Avignon returns for year seven with NAHS girls –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
In his seven years as the head coach of the North Adams Lady Devils varsity soccer squad, Coach Dave D’Avignon has taken the program from their lowest point to one of the most successful and feared teams in southern Ohio. With the 2016 season right around the corner, the Lady Devils look to continue their recent run of success, though last year’s accomplishments might be hard to match.
In 2015, the Lady Devils finished at 14-3-3, tied for second in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, and won a sectional championship before bowing out in the district semi-finals on a wet night at Jackson High School. The 2015 team put together a 12-game winning streak and at one point in the season were ranked number 14 in the state of Ohio in Division III.
“In the last three years, there has been a complete turnaround in fortunes for this team,” said Coach D’Avignon. “As a result, the member of this year’s team have known nothing but success. They have been part of a turnaround in the NAHS girls soccer programs, going 36-13-3 in the past three years compared to 11-38-2 in the previous three years. Now the challenge is to keep it up.
It is time to strap on the cleats and get back to the grind for the Lady Devils but they will be doing it in 2016 without the services of the graduated Cati Butler and Taylor Wylie. Butler scored 24 goals in 2015 and was named All-SHAC, All-District, and Second Team All-State. She will be taking her talents this fall to the pitch at West Liberty University in West Virginia. Wylie was the sweeper for last year’s squads, anchoring a defense which threw up eight shutouts in 20 outings.
Not to despair for Coach D’Avignon and his troops though as they return nine of 11 starters, including a strong senior class, led by Co-Captains Allison Harper and Jordyn Kell. Also bringing the senior leadership to the squad will be Kitasha mesmer, Abby Shupert, and Jessica Woodall. The impressive thing about that group is they have all played four years in the North Adams system.
“We have depth at all positions,” adds Coach D’Avignon. “We have a strong bench and players evenly distributed over all four classes,with five seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, and four freshmen.”
Offensively, the cupboard was certainly not left bare with the departure of Butler as the Lady Devils return junior Lakyn Hupp, who also found the back of the net 24 times last season, Mesmer who tallied 13 goals in 2015, and Kell who scored five times.
“I am still at this point not sure who will play here,” says Coach D’Avignon. “Hupp, Kell, and Mesmer all have incredible quickness, ball control, and shooting ability. Any of them could end up being the leading scorer on our team. Hupp, a left footer, is projected to be the left wing, Kell replaces Butler at center striker, and Mesmer handles right wing. In their careers so far they have combined for 75 goals. To say they work together well is an understatement.”
“If one player falls off, we will have another who can step up. I am relying on all of our roster.”
Also returning for the Lady Devils is one of the best goal keepers in junior Madee Shipley, who last season earned All-SHAC honors as well as All-District recognition. Shipley recorded eight shutouts in her freshman year (2014) and repeated that feat last season, to set a team single-season record and the 16 combined are by far the team career record. “We are very fortunate to have Madee,” says Coach D’Avignon. “I look for her to take over the defensive leadership role vacated by Taylor Wylie.”
One of the things that eluded the Lady Devils last season was an SHAC title and the road to that goals will once again go through the Lynchburg lady Mustangs, who won last year’s SHAC and will again be the favorite in 2016.
“Although you never know for sure, I look for us, Lynchburg, and Eastern brown to battle it out for the conference title, with Ripley close on our heels,” says Coach D’Avignon. “As a sleeper, I think Peebles might surprise a lot of people.”
One thing that worries Coach D’Avignon is that many of his girls lack an overall soccer experience at a high level.
“Very few players in Adams County play select soccer,” says the North Adams head man. “That tends to be a disadvantage when we get to the tournament and when we play Lynchburg. Part of our jobs as high school coaches in the county is to push, pull, and otherwise lead our players to higher plateaus.”
“Overall, though, this year we will be blessed to have a good group of girls and a good group of parent to support us. The girls work well together and are anxious to start a new season. It should be fun.”
The 2016 Lady Devils roster will consist of: freshmen Alaina Eitermann, Breanna Piatt, Kaitlyn Shreffler, and Mary Sonner; sophomores Jordan Yoder, Sarah Thacker, Hayley Robinson, Laney Hesler, and Cheyenne Abbott; juniors Brooklyn Wylie, Morgan Waits, Madee Shipley, Lakyn Hupp, and Taylor Hesler; and seniors Jessica Woodall, Abby Shupert, Kitasha Mesmer, Jordyn Kell, and Allison Harper.
After participating in the SHAC Preview on Aug. 13 in Lynchburg, the lady Devils open regular season play on aug. 20 at Minford.