High School Sports

Player of the Year in girls soccer surprised by back-to-back honors

Collinsville’s Emily Holten crosses the ball to assist on the first goal against Normal during their championship game of the Class 3A Edwardsville Sectional.
Collinsville’s Emily Holten crosses the ball to assist on the first goal against Normal during their championship game of the Class 3A Edwardsville Sectional. dholtmann@bnd.com

Senior forward Emily Holten has extended the Collinsville Kahoks’ stranglehold on the Belleville News-Democrat’s Player of the Year award in girls soccer.

Coaches voted Holten the recipient of the honor for the second consecutive year. Collinsville players have won the all-area team’s top honor in five of the last six years.

“Honestly, I was not expecting it at all because I got it last year,” said Holten, a Mississippi recruit who had 21 goals and 11 assists. “But I am so honored that I got it. I’m very excited about it. I don’t think I had a bad year; I just wasn’t expecting to get it twice in a row. I don’t know how common that is. So I wasn’t thinking I would get it.”

Holten believed one of her own teammates, senior forward Alynnah O’Leary (23 goals, eight assists), was a front-runner for the award on a star-studded team that also featured senior midfielder Andrea Frerker (six goals, 15 assists) and up-and-coming junior forward Courtney Marten (15 goals, five assists). Holten and Frerker were first-team all-state selections.

“There were a lot of goal-scorers (in the metro-east),” Holten said. “Alynnah was somebody I thought was going to get it, too, because she had an enormous amount of goals this year. There were just so many people that had really good years. I was thinking about a lot of other people when I was thinking about the award.”

Holten becomes the fourth player in the last 22 years to earn the award more than once, joining Collinsville’s Kat Roe (2012, 2013), Althoff’s Megan Pawlowski (2008, 2009, 2010) and Triad’s Jessie Bayne (2001, 2002, 2003).

“She deserves it,” seventh-year Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. “She’s such a versatile player and she gets better every year. That was one thing her and I talked about a lot this season: ‘Last year, you had such a good season. How could you top that?’

“We talked about her using her left foot like she used her right foot. You could tell in the offseason she worked on it. She scored some good goals with her left foot. That’s just one example of the type of player she is. She’s a dynamic player that makes others around her better, but there’s always things she can work on to get better. She proved that this season.”

Memories of state

Holten closed her career with 71 goals and 48 assists, helping Collinsville to a 77-20-6 record that included four Southwestern Conference championships. In the last three years, the Kahoks have placed fourth, second and third in the Class 3A state tournament.

Looking back, Holten said the trips to state will stand out more than anything.

“It was a huge accomplishment to go to state three years in a row,” she said. “I could have never expected to do that. But with the team we had, it was so much fun. I appreciate the hard work that every single player put on the field. ... It was a lot of fun to be with a team that wanted to work as hard as I did.”

New Trier was the roadblock for Collinsville the last two years at state. In 2016, the perennially powerful Trevians defeated the Kahoks 4-0 in the championship game. This year, Collinsville took New Trier to two overtimes before losing 2-1 in the semifinals.

“I really enjoyed playing New Trier,” Holten said. “They were a lot of fun to play. It was awesome that we got to play them again from our junior year. They beat us 4-0 my junior year and to go into overtime with them (this year) was a big accomplishment. We were upset we didn’t get to the state-championship game, but getting third place is something we’ve never got. We had to look on the bright side of that.”

Smith described Holten as a “quiet leader” who led by example.

“She’s a likable kid and a good leader. She’s always got a smile on her face,” Smith said. “The only time I’ve seen her disappointed was last year in that state-championship game. It hit her hard, and she wanted to get better to get us back to that point (this year).”

Tough task

Holten’s name was the one opposing coaches circled in their pregame talks. Stop Holten, they would say, and victory would be possible. It seldom worked out that way, as Holten had one hat trick, five two-goal games and eight other games with one goal.

“There were times I was being man-marked by a few people,” Holten said. “Coach Smith would tell me I was going to be marked a lot, but I just had to figure out ways to get away from my marks. It was kind of difficult. I knew it was coming because of the year before. I had to be smart and think of ways to receive the ball, turn and get shots on goal.”

Smith said Holten preferred to be double-marked because she knew it would create an opening for a teammate, and in the end, make the Kahoks more successful.

“She was very happy — as all players should be — if we got that win,” Smith said. “She was happy to spread the wealth. Especially in the state tournament, she was (tightly) marked, if not double-marked. She knew that was going to make the players around her better. You have to give her a lot of credit on that because, mentally, that can take a lot out of you.”

Holten said Smith has been a huge factor in her development.

“Coach Smith is an awesome coach,” Holten said. “He’s made high school so much fun for all of us. We work hard, but we had fun at the same time. He wants to help each individual get better. He cares about all of us separately and wants us to improve as a team.”

Off to Oxford

Holten left for Mississippi on Wednesday to begin training with the Runnin’ Rebels and to take two summer classes, one in psychology. The season begins Aug. 18 against Alabama State.

Holten expects to play on the forward line, perhaps on the wing.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” said Holten, who has not declared a major. “I’m excited for the workouts and to meet the girls. I’m really excited for the big change in my life. It’s time. I just need to keep getting more fit in the weight room and getting faster than I’ve been.”

Smith expects Holten to continue to improve.

“She’s a hard worker off the field, in the classroom and in the weight room,” Smith said. “She’ll get stronger. I can’t wait to watch her develop as a player. It will be interesting to see where she fits in and how the coach (Matt Mott) uses her athleticism. I can see her even playing in a right back position for a while or in an attacking role out of the back.

“But I think at this point, she’ll be happy to be anywhere on the field and help out at the Division I level. (Mississippi) got a good player.” 

David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm

2017 Belleville News-Democrat

All-Area Girls Soccer Team

Player of the Year

  • Emily Holten, Collinsville, sr.

Coach of the Year

  • Matt Bettlach, Triad

First Team

  • Lexi Grote, Granite City, sr.
  • Brianna Hatfield, Alton, jr.
  • Taylor Mathenia, Belleville West, jr.
  • Abigail Crabtree, Edwardsville, sr.
  • Meaghan Smith, Triad, sr.
  • Alynnah O’Leary, Collinsville, sr.
  • Andrea Frerker, Collinsville, sr.
  • Grace Brauer, Belleville East, jr.
  • Kennedy Jones, Columbia, so.
  • Tamia Cash, O’Fallon, jr.
  • GK: Bailey Redden, Belleville West, jr.

Second Team

  • Emelia O’Neill, Althoff, so.
  • Sydney Luedeman, Waterloo, jr.
  • Grace Niedhardt, Granite City, sr.
  • Casey Bell, Wesclin, sr.
  • Amanda Kaltwasser, Althoff, sr.
  • Sam Bassler, Triad, sr.
  • Courtney Vollmer, Belleville West, so.
  • Sam Stutsman, O’Fallon, jr.
  • Morgan Bohnenstiehl, Triad, sr.
  • Taylor Hansen, Edwardsville, sr.
  • Blair Wittenbrink, Columbia, sr.
  • GK: Mercedes King, Triad, jr.

Honorable Mention

(players listed in alphabetical order)

  • Annie Brown, Belleville East; Sidney Christopher, Wesclin; Quinn Cutler, Mater Dei (GK); Tayler Devine, Collinsville; Jody Ellis, Triad; Eryn Fanning, Triad; Allyson Fehrmann, Central; Elena Fridley, Wesclin; Claire Gruenke, Wesclin; Fae Harrell, Columbia; Addison Hanusek, Belleville West; Rian Hutson, Granite City; Rylee Iorio, Columbia (GK); Morgan Jetton, Freeburg; Katie Kercher, Alton; Kacie Kinnikin, Belleville West; Melanie Kulig, Belleville West; Erynn Little, Triad; Courtney Marten, Collinsville; Dani Maurer, Waterloo; Dayle McEwen, Collinsville; Alaina Nasello, Alton; Taylor Parks, Columbia; Abby Phelps, Gibault; Kendyl Pritchett, Granite City; Faith Rackers, Mater Dei; Katie Rogers, Triad; Paityn Schneider, Edwardsville; Sydni Stevens, Edwardsville; Destiny Strong, Mascoutah; Annabelle Walsh, Mascoutah; Liesl Whitener, Althoff; Audrey Wilke, Highland.

Past Belleville News-Democrat Girls Soccer Players of the Year

  • 2016: Emily Holten, Collinsville
  • 2015: Sophia Sharos, Collinsville
  • 2014: Quin Wilkes, O’Fallon
  • 2013: Kat Roe, Collinsville
  • 2012: Kat Roe, Collinsville
  • 2011: Kelsey Dinges, Althoff, and Rachel Tejada, Triad
  • 2010: Megan Pawloski, Althoff
  • 2009: Megan Pawloski, Althoff (1A-2A); Kelli Segobiano, Belleville West (3A)
  • 2008: Taylor Byrd, Columbia (Class A); Megan Pawloski, Althoff (Class AA)
  • 2007: Tessa Gavilsky, Granite City
  • 2006: Tasha Dittamore, Granite City
  • 2005: Katya Hessel, Edwardsville
  • 2004: Alaina Lacopo, Triad
  • 2003: Jessie Bayne, Triad
  • 2002: Jessie Bayne, Triad
  • 2001: Jessie Bayne, Triad
  • 2000: Erika Todd, Granite City
  • 1999: Christen Seaman and Abbie Perez, Belleville East
  • 1998: Tasha Siegel, Collinsville
  • 1997: Michelle Montgomery, Granite City
  • 1996: Connie Meyers, Granite City
  • 1995: Beth Albrecht, O’Fallon