FAIRMONT — One burst onto the scene as a freshman newcomer, a youngster with the skill set and wherewithal to potentially guide East Fairmont’s program to new heights in the years to come. The other capped off a heralded career as a firmly established talent who helped power Fairmont Senior to three sectional titles and two state tournament appearances in her three healthy high school seasons.
All year long, East Fairmont freshman Kierstyn Maxey and Fairmont Senior Tricia Lemasters, a senior, separated themselves as Marion County’s top individual talents on the pitch and cemented their standing as two of the state’s best players in the Class AA-A ranks. Maxey led the Bees to a 14-7-1 record and the sectional title game en route to earning Class AA-A coaches’ all-state first team honors, the lone freshman to do so in Class AA-A. Lemasters, meanwhile, was at the forefront of Fairmont Senior’s 17-3-1 season and charge to the Class AA-A state title game, and she was also rewarded with a spot on the Class AA-A coaches’ all-state first team.
Maxey and Lemasters, who were also named first team all-region and all-conference, were the lone players from Marion County to warrant all-state first team nods from the state’s coaches, as each put forth fantastic individual seasons within a teamwide context that elevated their respective squads in East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior.
The collective honors each of Maxey and Lemasters received was illustrative of their standing as Marion County’s top two players, but it also brought to light the razor thin margin between each player’s level of play this season and the ensuing neck-and-neck race for the Times West Virginian Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Lemasters, who toggled between the forward and midfield spots for the state runners-up Lady Polar Bears, was quite simply a lethal offensive weapon in every way. Her technical abilities were top tier, as she deployed a tight, controlled handle, versatile passing chops in terms of both angles and zip, and a powerful leg with varying launch angles. Perhaps Lemasters’ best trait as a creator, however, may be her understanding of angles and body positioning; she has a unique ability to shield off defenders with armbars and shoulder checks when in cramped quarters to remain in control of situations, and she routinely busted out a pivot move or hesitation that suddenly unearthed a small pocket of open space again.
“She’s an awesome player, and she’s a game changer not only with her skill, but with the other team looking for her,” said Fairmont Senior coach Jeff King of Lemasters.
Lemasters’ offensive acumen showed over the entire duration of the season as she scored a team- and county-best 29 goals in 21 games to go with eight assists. Lemasters’ marquee moment of the season, the one in which she unleashed her full offensive repertoire, came in what may have been the Polar Bears’ biggest win of the season, as she exploded for three goals and an assist in the team’s 4-1 Class AA-A state semifinal victory over Williamstown.
“Getting (to the state title game) was phenomenal,” said Lemasters after the Polar Bears fell to Charleston Catholic for the state championship. “We all put in the work and the effort and we gave it all the heart we had.”
Maxey, making her high school debut, didn’t take the Bees quite as far as Lemasters, with East Fairmont falling to Fairmont Senior in the sectional title game, but that’s hardly a demerit in her case for TWV Player of the Year. All year long she proved to be the lifeforce of nearly every element of East Fairmont’s teamwide make-up and play style.
Perhaps in more so than Lemasters, Maxey dictated more of a game’s total components — pace, flow, possession — due partially to her position as a midfielder, but also because of the nature of her game. Watch Maxey and she’s always in the thick of a game’s action, whether its fighting for 50-50 balls, pressuring opposing ball handlers, or driving an offensive attack through the middle, be it a more direct counter play or steady building by stringing together passes. She has the complete mix of pure soccer skills — footwork, touch, handling — physical traits — athleticism, speed — and intangible qualities — relentlessness, competitive drive — to affect the overall trendlines of a game.
“Kierstyn is just a heck of a player,” said East Fairmont coach Eric Wright, following a five-goal outing by Maxey in the sectional playoffs. “She can score in a number of ways; she can score 1-on-1, but she also knows how to get herself in position when she doesn’t have the ball — she’s smart and she understands the movements of the game.”
Maxey led the Bees with 25 goals, a mark that trailed only Lemasters within the county for the season, and her 13 assists were a county high.
“I’ve just been trying to work off the ball and get as many goals as I can this season,” Maxey said of her all-around impact. “I think it adds a lot to my game and our team because it’s not always just me scoring the goals and having the pride, it’s also being able to get other players the ball to make their night and give them the pride to keep playing.”
Both Maxey and Lemasters constructed nearly foolproof cases as the county’s best player and the TWV Player of the Year award. Ultimately, however, Lemasters’ ability to blend together premium individual shot creation as well as drive Fairmont Senior’s entire teamwide offense, all while piling up 17 wins and delivering a breakthrough run to the state title game has earned her the 2020 Times West Virginian Girls Soccer Player of the Year. It’s the second time in her career Lemasters has been named the TWV Girls Soccer Player of the Year after also winning the award in 2018 as a sophomore.
In addition to Lemasters being named the TWV Girls Soccer Player of the Year, Fairmont Senior goalkeeper Rebecca Cox has been named the TWV Defender/Goalkeeper of the Year and East Fairmont goalkeeper Kayla Black has been named the TWV Most Improved Player of the Year.
Cox, a junior, took a quantum leap in the net in 2020 where she emerged as one of Class AA-A’s best goalkeepers en route to earning second team all-state coaches honors. She finished the season with 117 saves for the Lady Polar Bears, good for 5.6 a game.
Black, a senior, made a triumphant return to the Lady Bees after sitting out her junior season, and over the course of the year, she made massive strides in the net. Black, who originally rejoined the Lady Bees as a projected position player, was recast as the Bees’ goalkeeper after the position opened up and she was simply phenomenal in the goal, tallying 85 saves for the season.
Fairmont Senior’s award recipients in Lemasters and Cox as well as East Fairmont’s Maxey and Black are also the headliners of the All-TWV Girls Soccer Team, a squad made up from each of the county’s three teams.
Lemasters is joined by North Marion star and all-state second teamer Karlie Denham as well as Fairmont Senior teammate Adaline Cinalli as the team’s forwards.
The team’s midfield consists of East Fairmont’s duo of Maxey and all-state second teamer Lilly Miller, as well as Fairmont Senior’s pairing of all-stater Sidney Greene and senior Emma Hedrick.
The backline is led by East Fairmont senior all-stater Kaylee Kenney, and she is joined by North Marion sophomore Olivia Toland.
Cox has been selected as the squad’s goalkeeper, while Black has also garnered a spot as a utility player to round out the team.