FAIRMONT — Just one day after Fairmont Senior boys’ Class AA-A state championship victory over Robert C. Byrd gave Marion County a third state title in the past five years on the pitch, the county landed nine players on the West Virginia High School Soccer Coaches Association all-state teams, with another six players earning all-state honorable mention nods.
Among the 15 total all-state honorees, five players earned Class AA-A all-state first team spots, with Fairmont Senior’s Jonas Branch and Seth Stilgenbauer as well as East Fairmont’s Aiden Slusser making the boys’ first team, while North Marion’s Aeriss Efaw and East Fairmont’s Myleena Starsick were named to the girls’ first team.
Four more players were named to the all-state second team, with Fairmont Senior’s Isaac Branch and Bubby Towns as well as East Fairmont’s Lance Cerullo earning spots on the boys’ team, while East Fairmont’s Kaylee Kenney made the girls’ second team.
The six all-state honorable mention county selections were headlined by a trio of Fairmont Senior girls, with Avary King, Alisha Hayhurst and Kate Gribben all making it for the Lady Polar Bears. East Fairmont’s Stevee Brock was also selected for honorable mention on the girls’ team. For the boys, East Fairmont’s Kadin Maxey and Luke Hawranick were named honorable mention.
Fairmont Senior’s boys’ team led the six Marion County teams with four total selections on the first and second teams. Jonas Branch, a junior captain midfielder for FSHS, was the team’s offensive fulcrum in the midfield, where he oozed technical skills as a ball handler and passer while also racking up first touches and 50-50 balls. Towns, a sophomore forward, was the Polar Bears’ top goal scorer, with his offensive acumen reaching its peak during FSHS’s state title run. Towns scored a team-high nine goals in FSHS’s six playoff games, including three go-ahead scores, none bigger than his golden goal in overtime of the state championship game to give the Polar Bears their first state title since 2015. Stilgenbauer and Isaac Branch, meanwhile, were the nucleus of a vaunted Fairmont Senior defense as the team’s pair of captain centerbacks, and the duo also added to the Polar Bears’ offensive punch as featured weapons on set pieces.
For East Fairmont, Slusser’s all-state first team selection is his second in a row, with the Bees’ senior midfielder piecing together quite the finale to an all-time career. He finished this season with a team-high 52 goals, giving him 128 goals for his career. Cerullo, who was limited in the season’s early going due to injury, ranked second on the Bees this season with 32 goals, while also tallying 24 assists.
Hawranick and Maxey posted seven goals and four goals for the season, respectively, with Hawranick also chipping in three assists and Maxey posting six assists.
All eight of the boys’ all-state honorees were also named to the Class AA-A Region I first team, while Fairmont Senior goalkeeper Angelo Sabatino and East Fairmont defender Trey Rogers were named to the Region I second team.
Fairmont Senior coach Darrin Paul was named the Region I Coach of the Year in his inaugural season as FSHS head coach after being the lead assistant to long-time Polar Bears head coach Jim DeNardi for the past 15-plus seasons. Paul guided the Polar Bears to an 18-3-5 record this season en route to the program’s first state championship since 2015.
Jacob Estep of Wheeling Central was named the Region I Player of the Year.
Many of those same players from the EFHS and FSHS boys’ teams were also named to the boys’ All-Big 10 team, which was released on Monday. Jonas Branch was the Polar Bears’ lone selection on the All-Big 10 first team, where he was joined by East’s duo of Slusser and Cerullo. The Polar Bears’ Stilgenbauer-Branch defensive duo were selected to the conference’s second team as was Maxey for the Bees.
Robert C. Byrd’s Khori Miles, whose Eagles finished Class AA-A state runner-up to Fairmont Senior, was named the Big 10 Player of the Year, while Buckhannon-Upshur’s Mike Donato was named Big 10 Coach of the Year.
On the girls’ side, East Fairmont and Fairmont Senior may have collected the most all-state selections with three apiece, but it was North Marion’s Efaw who earned the highest honors, as she was also named the Class AA-A Region I Player of the Year in addition to her first team all-state selection. Efaw capped her NMHS career with a remarkable senior season as the linchpin of the Lady Huskies’ offense in the midfield. A brilliant ball handler, passer and scorer, Efaw led the Lady Huskies to their first sectional championship in program history with a game-winning goal over East Fairmont in the final seconds.
Efaw’s coach, Nelson Elliott, was named the Region I Coach of the Year in just his second season with the Huskies. Elliott oversaw what was a breakthrough season for North Marion as it finished the year 14-6 overall and earned a spot in the Region I championship game for the first time in program history.
Alongside Efaw as the county’s other member of the girls’ all-state first team, East Fairmont’s Starsick was the backbone for a stingy Bees’ defense, with her agility and range in the net. She tallied an unofficial total of 110 saves for the Bees this season. Starsick’s former backup, Kenney, was the other pillar of East Fairmont’s defense, with the junior emerging as a star at the team’s centerback spot in what her first season ever playing defender.
Brock was dealt a dose of hard luck in her senior season for the Lady Bees as she missed a big chunk of the year due to illness. But the hard-working senior captain returned for the postseason, where she guided the Bees to a sectional runner-up finish, to earn her honorable mention spot.
Fairmont Senior’s trio of honorable mention selections is highlighted by senior captain midfielder Avary King, a feisty ball winner with a non-stop motor who led FSHS as one of just two four-year players on the Lady Polar Bears’ roster. Hayhurst, a junior captain centerback, was the cornerstone of FSHS’s backline all season as a third-year starter, while Gribben debuted flashy foot skills as a freshman to rev up the FSHS offense.
The pair of county first teamers on the girls side — NMHS’s Efaw and EFHS’s Starsick — were also the lone county platers named to the All-Big 10 first team. King and Gribben earned second team All-Big 10 nods for Fairmont Senior, while North Marion’s Karlie Denham also made the second team.
Elkins’ Sophia Triplett was named Big 10 Player of the Year, while Bridgeport’s John Reese was named Big 10 Coach of the Year.