ELSIE — Josie Nash didn’t quite know what to expect going into her junior season at Ovid-Elsie.
Sure, she had scored 27 goals as a freshman, then fell off to 13 as a sophomore.
“I didn’t walk into the season having that much confidence,” she said.
As it turns out, she didn’t need to worry.
Nash, a junior, scored 43 goals this season and had 11 assists for the Marauders, helping lead the team to the first Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title.
For her efforts, Nash is the Argus-Press Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Her coach, Craig Thelen, certainly appreciated the increased scoring output, but liked even more how and when those goals were scored.
“Her greatest strength is the better the competition, the better she got,” he said. “She could have had more goals, but she was a willing passer and willing to go to the bench when the game was out of hand. She would ask if she could play defense so someone else can score.”
Nash is a confident player without crossing the line into cockiness, a student of the game who plays defense on her travel team.
“Last year I went in and I told my coach it was easier for me to take a ball away from a girl than to dribble through,” she said. “I hope to play at a higher level some day, but being introduced at that higher level I didn’t want to put myself into a position of expecting myself to dribble through everyone the first day. I didn’t want to do that to myself.”
She thrived on defense, working on improving on that end of the field while using the knowledge gained playing offense for the Marauders to thwart strikers while playing for Cap City.
Nash played offense until one season her AYSO team had a losing campaign, prompting her to announce to her mother that she was quitting the sport.
“My mom told me I should go on defense and stop the goals from happening,” she said.
So she plays at both ends of the field over the course of a calendar year.
Her output this season was helped in part due to knowing what defenders were thinking while guarding her, and a knack for finding holes in opponents’ defense.
“She has a nose for the ball,” Thelen said. “She just goes to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the midfield. She’s a tireless worker.”
She plays a more technical game these days.
“As a freshman, I could run past people,” Nash said. “This year I was more controlled and we used more passes, and that’s how you tear apart teams. If someone passes me the ball at center, I might hold onto the ball for a second and draw the defense in so we can get the ball back outside. We can re-design their defense and keep going.”
It worked, and often; the Marauders’ 101 goals scored this season was a school record.
“I’d like to say I’m versatile,” Nash said. “I can run past people but I like to try and outsmart teams. I like to mess with the other girls. If they say something to me, I laugh to let them know I’m paying attention because they think they’re getting in my head, which they aren’t.”
Often, that resulted in a goal for Nash, which always quiets a defense.
Nash plays basketball in the winter to stay in shape, having given up volleyball because it conflicted with her travel soccer schedule.
In the meantime, she has one more year to dissect defenses and take a run at Ovid-Elsie’s individual scoring record, which is well within reach.
“I try to play the ball as it goes, because I’m always looking around to see where people are going,” she said. “Everyone knows where the ball’s at, but I try to study how other people are moving, like where’s my next runner going to go.
“I try to be where they’re not.”
Here is the All-Area Soccer Team:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Josie Nash, Ovid-Elsie
The junior scored 43 goals this season with 11 assists, for a school-record 54 points. She was named to the all-Mid-Michigan Athletic Conference and all-district teams.
Myia Danek, Laingsburg
The junior was a Division 4 first-team all-state selection, allowing just 14 goals on the season and recording 11 shutouts. She set a school record for saves (103) and has committed to play at Oakland University. “She reads the ball and where players are going very well,” coach Graham Lockwood said. “Her footwork is good as well.”
Claire Elfring, Laingsburg
The junior had five goals and tied for the team high with eight assists as a midfielder. “She was our playmaker in the field,” Lockwood said. “She held our defense together and does a wonderful job in the midfield.”
Raygan Fluharty, Ovid-Elsie
The junior was named the most valuable player for the Marauders this season. “She was our best all-around player and our most complete player,” Thelen said. A first-team all-MMAC selection, she handled set plays for Ovid-Elsie. She had seven goals and a team-high 14 assists for the Marauders.
Macy Friend, Durand
The sophomore was the Railroaders’ second-leading scorer, with nine goals and two assists. “She’s exceptionally versatile,” Durand coach Marc Smith says. “She has a good understanding of the game at a young age. She’s going to be a phenomenal player and a key part of our team the next couple of years.”
Grace Graham, Laingsburg
The sophomore was named to the Division 4 all-state second team. She was a team captain and had 21 goals and three assists. “She was always in the right spot at the right time,” Lockwood said. “To beat us, teams had to take her away.”
Alexis Kusnier, Ovid-Elsie
The junior goalie had 11 shutouts for the Marauders, who finished 16-4 on the season. “Her strength is in stopping breakaways,” Thelen said. “If someone came at her one-on-one, she had the advantage.” Kusnier also was a first-team all-MMAC selection.
Hunter Luke, Byron
The junior played in the center on defense and at midfield, depending on where she was needed, coach Greg Williams said. She also could score, notching six goals and four assists on the season. She earned first-team honors in the MMAC.
Lauren Palus, Ovid-Elsie
The junior led the Marauders in takeaways and was a key player on the Ovid-Elsie defense. “She’s very smart on the defensive end, and a good communicator,” Thelen said. Palus was a first-team all-MMAC and all-district selection.
Olivia Sampson, Durand
The senior had 21 goals while serving as a captain for the second year in a row. A versatile player, she played attack, the middle and on defense where needed. She also earned first-team All-MMAC honors.
Kylee Sevenski, Ovid-Elsie
The senior was an all-MMAC selection and earned the Coach’s Award while recording seven goals and 12 assists. “She could play anywhere on the field and do whatever we needed her to do,” Thelen said. “She was tough and fast and one of the best at any position we would put her at.”
Emily Williams, Byron
The junior had 19 goals and five assists for the Eagles to lead the team. She served as a captain and was a first-team MMAC selection.
Madelyn Bancroft, Ovid-Elsie
The senior mostly played center mid, but played where needed as well. “I could put her anywhere,” Thelen said. “Sometimes the wing, sometimes at forward, but mostly at center mid. She worked hard.”
Linsey Carlson, Durand
The senior defender was one of two players who played in every minute of every game for the Railroaders. “She missed one game due to work,” Smith said. “Otherwise, she never came out and never stopped working.”
Julia DeYoung, Durand
The senior finished playing four years on the Railroaders varsity. “She has a good understanding of the ball,” Smith said. “She’s not afraid of going after the ball or getting hurt. She has a lot of confidence back there.”
Abigail Glass, Byron
She saw action in both goal and on offense during the season, scoring two goals with three assists while allowing 12 goals in net for the Eagles.
Jenna Goodrich, Byron
She played outside mid for the Eagles, scoring a goal with three assists. “She held her own over there and was a key to us having a good season,” Williams said.
Olivia Graham, Laingsburg
The senior forward had four goals and eight assists for the Wolfpack. “She is very clinical with her passes,” Lockwood said. “She does a fantastic job of winning the ball and finding other players to pass it to.”
Izzey Newberry, Owosso
The senior goalkeeper had several games with 20 or more saves for the Trojans this season.
Lauren Stowe, Owosso
The senior defender was an all-Flint Metro League and all-district selection. “The stats might not show it, but she was the heart and soul of our team,” Trojans coach Chris Bird said. “She was a strong leader who could step into any role on the team.”
Emilie Saint Amour, Laingsburg
The sophomore had two goals and three assists while helping solidify the Wolfpack defense. “She’s a very good defender,” Lockwood said. “We would have faced a lot more shots if not for her. She’s very calm back there. I can see her playing at the next level.”
Kaylee Sutliff, Ovid-Elsie
The first-team all-MMAC selection patrolled the middle for the Marauders. “She controlled the middle of the field,” Thelen said. “She’s a real selfless player.”
Mila Zijp, Byron
The senior exchange student had three assists while missing much of the season due to injuries. “When she was in, she locked down our defense,” Williams said.
Manon Gumy, Byron; Kassady Wiley, Byron; Anna Church, Durand; Sydney Harden, Durand; Abby Kirkbride, Laingsburg; Lorna Streiff, Laingsburg; Vivian Cole, Ovid-Elsie; Madison Cunningham, Ovid-Elsie; Claire Drake, Owosso.