Brianna Johnston could’ve been excused for thinking she’d accomplished just about everything possible by her senior year.
Even at one of the smallest Class 3A schools in the state and without a specific athletic period to practice soccer during the school year, Johnston made the Lorena record books her own personal ledger.
She’d already surpassed 100 career goals, already led Lorena further than it had ever been in the playoffs and already put the Lady Leopards on the map as one of the area’s most productive girls’ soccer programs.
There were also the two straight Super Centex Player of the Year awards for astronomical goal tallies.
She could’ve taken her senior year off. But she didn’t.
For yet another hyper-productive season, Johnston is the 2012 Super Centex Player of the Year. It’s the third straight year she’s won the award after averaging 36 goals per year over her four-year career.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Johnston said. “I’m very honored, and it’s amazing.”
Johnston’s litany of accomplishments over four years is startling. She’s led Lorena to the playoffs in three of the last four years, and the team has a 40-19-2 record over the last two. That includes a 7-2 playoff record and a staggering 144 career goals.
But she saved the best for last. Her 39 goals and 18 assists weren’t the highest individual totals of her career, but she helped Lorena to its best season ever.
“She’s just a well-rounded person,” Lorena coach Steve Glaser said. “As a person outside of soccer she’s just unbelievable to begin with. She doesn’t want a lot of attention . . . There’s no doubt that she has been a huge presence for putting Lorena soccer on the map.”
Despite some early stumbles, the Lady Leopards won 21 games and advanced to the regional tournament for the first time in program history.
Lorena lost to Friendswood in the regional semifinal, 4-1, but the school’s only regional tournament goal came from Johnston off a deft free kick from range.
“Last year almost getting to the regional tournament, I felt like that was our goal this year was to get to the regional tournament,” Johnston said. “We did what we had to do.”
Before her junior year, Johnston set the seemingly unattainable goal of breaking the 100-goal plateau. That required 39 goals of her. She scored 44.
As a senior, her targets were more team-oriented. While Lorena had reached the regional quarterfinals her junior year, Johnston wasn’t satisfied. With the regional tournament dangling just out of reach, that became the next target.
Following a tense shootout victory over Lumberton in the regional quarters in which Johnston drilled her kick, that dream was realized.
“My goal was just to do the best I could,” Johnston said. “I felt like I did.”
The goals didn’t flow forth as they once did initially because Johnston, true to her mantra, was busy plugging up leaks to better the team.
Glaser dropped Johnston into the midfield early in district play to fill gaps, and Johnston responded admirably. The goals weren’t coming in clumps, but she was helping the team to a second-place district finish behind Midway and into prime position for a playoff run.
Johnston added one final cherry to her career when she scored what will stand as Lorena’s only regional tournament goal to date. With the game already in the bag for Friendswood, she stepped up to a free kick from 30 yards and curled her effort into the top left corner.
Now, Johnston will go on to Arkansas with the distant chance of walking onto the soccer team as a sophomore.
“It was a great experience,” Johnston said. “We knew we could do it if we put our minds to it, and we did it.”
Coach of the Year:
Bill Sharp Midway
There were several pivotal moments during Midway’s nondistrict schedule when the Pantherettes’ season could’ve swirled into a deadly tailspin.
Even as Midway was buffetted by squall after squall, Bill Sharp made sure the ship never ran aground.
For the effort, Sharp is the Super Centex Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.
The last three years have been a wild ride for the Pantherettes, who have reached the state tournament every year.
For Sharp, the third push presented a unique set of challenges. Just a few games into the year, senior captain and UTEP commit Aleah Davis tore her anterior cruciate ligament and was lost for the year. Not only did Sharp have to defray the mental damage, he had to juggle the midfield and craft a winning lineup without its leader.
When coupled with a difficult nondistrict schedule during which Midway lost an uncharacteristic four times — Midway had been undefeated until state the year before — Sharp had his work cut out.
“I was proud of the rest of the girls on the team,” Sharp said. “I know it was a shock to their system when (Davis) went down, but we had kids really elevate their game and step up. They started doing some things we hadn’t seen, and I was proud of them.”
Sharp is quick to offer a round of backslaps to a team that included a wide variety of players, from grizzled seniors who’d already been to state to the seven freshmen on the team who were getting their first taste.
His generous substitution policy assured all of them playing time, which concluded in yet another year at state.
Even with a target planted on Midway’s back, Sharp still managed to squeeze every drop of ability from the Pantherettes’ talented roster to leave an impression on the Class 4A ranks.
“We said going into last year, everybody knows where you’ve been,” Sharp said. “We’re not a surprise anymore, so everybody’s going to get up to play you now. To do it a third time is something to be proud of.”
Newcomer of the Year:
Kourtney Johnson Connally
Learning curves are only natural for incoming freshmen, but the one Kourtney Johnson endured was exceptional even for a first-year varsity player.
How about swapping your goalkeeper gloves for a spot in the midfield?
“It was kind of new for me to play midfield,” Johnson said. “They already had a goalie so they needed a midfield spot.”
Johnson was a natural in the spot, scoring seven goals and providing eight assists to earn the Super Centex Newcomer of the Year award.
Connally’s soccer program is still getting its bearings, so for Johnson to slide in as a freshman contributor from day one wasn’t entirely unheard of. But it did require some adjustment, which she did well.
Johnson made an immediate impression, starting from the beginning of the season for a program in search of its first ever playoff appearance. Johnson was a key cog in that search, providing a calming influence in the center and proving as adept at scoring as she was at providing goals.
The Lady Cadets’ form in district play was perhaps most surprising. Connally was 6-2 in District 33-4A, and its only two losses were both to unbeaten district champs University.
Sweeping the rest of the league was something new for the surging Lady Cadets.
“We had a really good season,” Johnson said. “We made it to playoffs first round and lost, which was kind of disappointing. But we had a really good season. We only lost two games in district, so it was really good.”
Player of the Year: Brianna Johnston, Lorena
Newcomer of the Year: Kourtney Johnson, Connally
Coach of the Year: Bill Sharp, Midway
Ande Carlton and Sumner Myers, China Spring; Shyann Waters, Gatesville; Yesenia Hernandez, La Vega; Mariah Griffin, Lizzie Lamar, Lauren Marteney, Cassidy Stigliano and Brenna Vonasek, Lorena; Heather Sides, Robinson; Abby Blunt and Hannah Wiley, Temple; Alexis Barragan, Carly Guerrero, Crystal Mendez, Janely Perez and Gabby Ramon, University; Ashley Eary, Waco High
Dorsett was a relentless cruise missle up front as the Pantherettes’ most productive forward in a state year.
Provided a consistent scoring outlet up front for another district title year; had 13 goals, 19 assists.
Temple’s leading scorer put in 25 goals, two in playoffs; also added five assists, two hat tricks.
Won POY for third straight year with 39 goals, 18 assists; led Lorena to regional tourney for first time.
Helped open up Johnston by becoming threat of her own; scored career-best 34 goals, had 15 assists.
Grambling State commit was a do-everything player in the middle and broke down attacks well.
Despite being a constant target, guided the Pantherettes to their third straight trip to the state tourney.
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