SALT LAKE CITY — A few started their high school careers slowly, while others raced out of the gates. Some are elite defenders, others playmaking midfielders and a few are goal scorers extraordinaire.
For all their differences, each of the 2019 girls soccer MVPs proved themselves invaluable to their teams, deserving of recognition as some of the finest soccer players in the state.
Here’s a list of this year’s most valuable players in the 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A classifications, as chosen by the Deseret News.
Andi Baldwin, American Fork
When she arrived at American Fork High School as a freshman, Andi Baldwin was not an instant success. Her first season was spent entirely on the junior varsity team and her sophomore year wasn’t too different, as she shuffled back and forth between varsity and JV.
For one reason or another, Baldwin just didn’t really fit in early in her Caveman career, despite natural gifts that included “a brilliant soccer IQ,” according to American Fork head coach Derek Dunn.
“She just wasn’t fitting in where we needed her too,” he said.
Baldwin could have given up. She could have left. She could have railed against Dunn and her teammates. Instead, she “stayed humble and kept working on the little things that I expect in our program,” said Dunn.
“Andi has played almost every position on the soccer field for me. She is literally the Swiss Army knife, the utility tool that you can put anywhere and she’ll fix the problem.” — American Fork coacch Derek Dunn, on Andi Baldwin
It all paid off her senior season as Baldwin became an invaluable piece of a state championship winning team and this year’s 6A MVP. Baldwin finished the year with six goals scored, the third-most on the team, and was American Fork’s leader in assists, but it was her versatility that truly set her apart.
“Andi has played almost every position on the soccer field for me,” Dunn said. “She is literally the Swiss Army knife, the utility tool that you can put anywhere and she’ll fix the problem.”
That included in the state championship game against Davis, when multiple American Fork players went down with injury and/or were bothered by sickness.
“We had a couple kids go down and kids who were sick, but whatever big moment there was, she was always there to take care of it,” said Dunn.
Baldwin’s versatility is a byproduct of greatness and hard work.
“Great soccer players can play any position, as long as you are smart, humble and willing to work,” said Dunn. “Andi’s work ethic is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Her work ethic resulted in her becoming a team leader, something that was unlooked for, but a role she played well anyway.
“She took on a leadership role that she didn’t necessarily think she was going to get,” Dunn said. “She became a leader and if a mistake happened she was there to fix it. Everyone trusted what she was going to do.”
Jayda Masina, Skyline
Skyline head coach Yamil Castillo has seen his fair share of elite soccer players in the decade he has spent coaching the Skyline Eagles, but none quite like Jayda Masina. A team captain for two consecutive years and this year’s 5A MVP, Masina is unique and that uniqueness comes down to one simple thing: an “amazing attitude.”
“She puts the team first, rather than herself,” Castillo said. “It isn’t about impressing anybody. She always has a really good attitude and never talks bad about anyone. It is always ‘OK, coach or yes, coach’. That is what makes her special.”
Special enough to be considered “one of the best captains I have had in 10 years,” Castillo said.
“She works hard and trains hard. That enables her to lead by example.” — Skyline coach Yamil Castillo, on Jayda Masina
Masina is more than just her enviable attitude, though. A junior midfielder, she netted 10 goals for the Eagles this season, the fourth most on the team. She was a vital cog in one of the state’s deadliest offensive attacks, as Skyline netted a classification-best 93 goals, trailing only two teams in the entire state, Rowland Hall (123) and Morgan (98).
“She is good at reading the plays,” said Castillo. “She is good at analyzing where the next play is going to be, seeing what is going to happen next and then she helps her teammates succeed. She is good at getting the ball back, getting it into play and the playing organized. She has a good feel for the game and trust her teammates that they’ll be where they are supposed to be.”
Some of that comes naturally to her, while the remainder developed over time as a result of hard work, something else Masina is known for.
“She works hard and trains hard,” Castillo said. “That enables her to lead by example.”
Her leadership was on display throughout the state tournament, as she led the Eagles to just the third state championship in program history.
Alysia Butters, Ogden
Ogden Tigers’ midfielder Alysia Butters has always been talented. The senior is blessed with more than a few preternatural gifts, great technical ability for one. Then there is her vision, which is almost enough to make anyone want to suit up for the Tigers.
“Very few players have the ability, not just to see a dangerous ball, but then to be able to play it,” Ogden head coach Skylar Stam said. “A lot of players might see it, but they are too slow or don’t have the ability to slot it into that space. (Alysia) cannot only see it, but she can do it and she can do it with both feet. She’ll play balls and I’ll be like ‘how did she even see that?’ It is fun. If I played with her I would love it and smile every day.”
“The way she grew this year that helped this team the most is she stepped up and didn’t just play the game with her feet, she played it with her heart.” — Ogden coach Skylar Stam, on Alysia Butters
Those gifts and more propelled Butters to a standout high school career, this season especially. She led the way for the state champion Tigers in 2019, netting a team-high 25 goals, while assisting on eight more goals on her way to earning 4A MVP honors.
As gifted a player as she has always been, Butters took a significant step forward in her senior season in terms of both her work rate and leadership.
“The way she grew this year that helped this team the most is she stepped up and didn’t just play the game with her feet, she played it with her heart,” Stam said. “Her hard work and her work rate went up ten notches from where it was at. She’d always worked hard, but I don’t think she realized until this year how much more she had in her.”
Her effort was infectious and brought out the best of every Tiger.
“To have that player on your team do that kind of thing lifts everybody up,” said Stam.
While her increased work rate led the team by example, Butters also took an active role in leadership, something that did not come naturally.
“I don’t think she saw herself as a leader before,” said Stam. “She always was a good player, she knows that, but I don’t think she ever pictured herself as someone other people looked to. She started to see that more and more and more and that was one of the more fun things to watch in her high school career.”
Nicole Nelson, Manti
Those were the first words out of the mouth of Manti head coach Eleshia Steinfeldt when asked about Nicole Nelson, this year’s 3A MVP. Nelson, a senior midfielder, brought the Templars extreme creativity in the middle of the field this season, the first ever championship season for Manti soccer.
“Everything flowed through her offensively,” Steinfeldt said. “She has great vision. She is incredibly dynamic. She is actually a risk taker. When she sees something she is willing to take risks to create.”
Those traits enabled Nelson to score eight goals this season — the highlight of which were two goals scored in Manti’s semifinal victory over Juab — and assist on eight more. She was more than just an attacker, too.
“She is not just a one-way player. She’ll take risks and be creative offensively, but will bust it back defensively as well.”
“Goals come and go, but she is so creative and she is so solid. You can count on her day in and day out. There is no worry about whether she is going to show up or not.” — Manti coach Eleshia Stinfeldt, on Nicole Nelson
Nelson stellar senior campaign stands in stark contrast to her first season as a Templar. As a freshman, Nelson was sidelined by injury.
“She lost her whole freshman year due to an injury,” said Steinfeldt. “She came to practice every single day, but wasn’t allowed to do any kind of contact, so she worked on her own individual skills at practice the whole time, while we were doing everything else that she couldn’t do.”
Losing her freshman season made the final three seasons of her high school career that much more precious.
“She was just determined to succeed,” said Steinfeldt. “She got cleared to play the winter of her freshman year and from then on she took it upon herself to make herself better. She has always been the kid that is determined to not be outworked. She has always been the type of player you can count on to step up and work hard, no matter what. She has always craved a challenge.”
“She is solid,” Steinfeldt added. “Goals come and go, but she is so creative and she is so solid. You can count on her day in and day out. There is no worry about whether she is going to show up or not.”
Jordan Crockett, Rowland Hall
It is a bit crazy to bring up the word legacy when talking about a 17-year old high school athlete, but a lasting legacy is exactly what Jordan Crockett will leave at Rowland Hall.
Now a two-time 2A MVP — she also won the award in 2018 — Crockett has been a once-in-a-decade type player, spearheading a run of back-to-back-to-back state championships.
“It is not hyperbole, it is reality,” Rowland Hall head coach Bobby Kennedy said. “We just don’t have kids like her. We graduate 80 kids every year and all go to college, but very few play college sports, which she will. She has spearheaded a three-peat, really.”
Crockett has been the ultimate team player, doing whatever is best for others. Before every season, Kennedy asks his players where they’d like to play, in hopes of putting kids where they are most comfortable and every year without fail, Crockett has answered anywhere but goalie.
“Just because you have a physical prowess doesn’t mean you are quick to be a leader. She has grown into that role really well. For us, she is a once-in-a-decade type kid.” — Rowland Hall coach Bobby Kennedy, on Jordan Crockett
“I don’t know many people who will be two-time MVP who wouldn’t say center midfield or up top so they can shatter records for goal scoring and what have you,” Kennedy said. “Jordan will play anywhere. She is a fierce competitor, but plays the way we want our kids to play.”
As a freshman, she played as a forward and recorded ridiculous scoring and assist numbers. In every subsequent season, she has played as a center defensive back, anchoring the Winged Lions defense.
“She figured out her role and basically stabilized everything back there.”
Nowhere was that more evident than in the state title game, when Crockett helped lead Rowland Hall past Real Salt Lake Academy.
“She played pretty big in the bigger games,” said Kennedy.
This year, her senior season, Crockett also emerged as a team leader, in addition to her regular stalwart play.
“Just because you have a physical prowess doesn’t mean you are quick to be a leader,” Kennedy noted. “She has grown into that role really well. For us, she is a once-in-a-decade type kid.”