Study of 10 HHS football players who will have a huge impact on the remainder of the fall 2021 season

Both Hornell’s boys and girls’ soccer teams are getting off to a hot start to the opening week of the season, and each roster is filled with players who will make an impact on the field in every single game. Here we are discussing ten players from the squad of boys or girls who are worth the price of admission for the 2021 season.

1. Sophie Wilkins (Jr., MF)

Sophie Wilkins has had an incredible second campaign leading the Red Raiders by 11 goals, including the two times she found the end of the net in the Section V Championship game. Wilkins scored a total of three times in the Section V playoffs and also added an assist when the Red Raiders were crowned champions. This season, Wilkins is back with a more complete game where not only can she throw the ball into the net, but she can also line up other people and take the ball off her opponent’s foot. Wilkins is in her third year in varsity action and could be the most talented all-round player on the field any night she steps on the field. If Wilkins can show the same growth as last season, Hornell’s chances of a repeat are vastly increased.

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2. Jack Emo (Sun., MF)

Jack Emo moved to the Hornell district this off-season and immediately caused a stir with his skill. Emo is only in his sophomore year but has quickly become one of Hornell’s key players with his ability to control midfield. Emo has an incredible ability to keep Hornell in possession of the ball and finds unreal passing angles to offer amazing opportunities to his talented goalscorers. But Emo’s best skill right now is how he lets the game come to him. Emo never pushes too hard or plays too fast, he has complete control on the field and allows him to maintain a flow in the game that Hornell always has an advantage. If emo can be anything advertised in the middle of the field, Hornell has a real chance of rushing through the Section V playoffs.

3. Julia Marino (Sr., GK)

If you run into Juliet Marino, keep the ball because that doesn’t happen often. Marino’s ability to be in the right position with opposing teams’ scoring chances makes her a really great goalkeeper. Marino lets the players question their shots and stops many chances before they even arise. When she’s doing a save, she’s a great decision maker and an underrated kicker as her transitions help Hornell get on the forefoot on a large scale. Marino is also one of the best leaders in Section V and that has a big impact on the field as she keeps the defense in front of her all the time. Marino also picks up her teammates, keeps them focused and generally helps everyone around her become a better player and person. Their responsibility and leadership through action is a skill very few high school students possess, and the Red Raiders do better both on and off the field thanks to Marino.

4. Ian Ashworth (Sr., Att)

Ian Ashworth isn’t paid to play football, but if he did he’d be paid to score goals. Ashworth plays at the forefront of Hornell’s attack, constantly using his speed to get behind the defense. Once he has the ball on his feet, he is extremely efficient if he can make a quick move around a defender to find a better angle on the net. Ashworth has already scored three goals in the first three games of the season, and in ways that are extremely difficult to predict. Ashworth is a master at taking the field down and his intellect and timing are impeccable for scoring chances. Only the best defenders in Section V can stop Ashworth, but he’s also perfectly fine to be a decoy in the name of winning which means teams can’t expend too many resources trying to stop him. This selflessness allows him to be a constant force on the offensive and opens up options for every other player on the field.

5. Ireland Harrison (Jr., Att)

In the 2020 season, Ireland Harrison was a master at creating scoring opportunities, but she often struggled to take those chances for herself and ended the season with seven goals. But in 2021, those chances hit the net with alarming frequency, having already scored six goals in the first three games of the season. Harrison’s ability to finish this season should startle opponents as their tenacity and speed make it nearly impossible to stop them for an entire game. If Harrison can continue to play their scoring chances this year, it basically equates to a guaranteed goal per game for Hornell, which is a huge advantage for any team. But even if Harrison doesn’t finish every hit on the net, she still has a huge impact as she can cover so much field in a short amount of time. Harrison is expanding the field for Hornell and every step forward the defense takes is a dangerous step as Harrison can take a deep run so quickly. Harrison is a huge game plan problem for opposing teams, and their style of play and ability to attack can massively alter any opponent’s strategy.

6. Nick Oyer (Sr., D)

When you attend a Hornell soccer game, you’re sure to hear the voice of head coach Jim Tobin. But the other voice you’re guaranteed to hear here is Nick Oyer on the defensive side of the ball. Oyer has been a firm cog on the defensive side of the ball for a number of years, and in his final season he fully embraced the role of field general for the Red Raiders. Oyer is the anchor that holds the HHS soccer team together from behind, avoids offensive opportunities and hushes up mistakes made by his teammates. Oyer’s style of play and ability to execute allow the Red Raiders to play a very aggressive type of football and even allow other defenders to put the field in an attacking position for more firepower. Many programs have the talent to implement this strategy, but very few have the leadership and responsibility to implement it. Oyer’s persistence, availability and leadership make him one of the most important players in Section V.

7. Jane Spitulnik (Sr., D)

Jane Spitulnik is one of the most intimidating forces in Section V. She is tall, strong, and quick, which allows her to take out an offensive threat while covering much of the field. Spitulnik has mastered her role in defense and, as a senior, continued to steer the players around her, creating a fearsome foursome of defenders behind Hornell’s formation. Spitulnik also has a strong right foot which helps the Red Raiders on the offensive side of the ball as well. Spitulnik can take a great offensive chance for the opponent, stopping possession and then quickly bringing the ball across the field for great scoring opportunities at any point in the game. Spitulnik also spends some time taking corners and free kicks from any distance, making her a real danger of scoring every time she walks to the ball. With Spitulnik at the back of the defense, the Red Raiders can be aggressive on the offensive, knowing that many counterattacks are quickly stifled by Spitulnik’s presence and skill.

8. Gennaro Picco (Sun., D)

Gennaro Picco is one of those rare players who can play virtually anywhere on the field. He’s currently on the defensive, but that doesn’t stop him from making a name for himself on the ball’s offensive. Picco has the athleticism and intelligence to cover every offensive player on the other team and his foot skills are good enough to take the ball away and bring it to the sideline. Picco is also skilled enough to step up in the field and become an additional attacker at the right time. He can bring the ball forward and create it for other players, and he even has a beautiful late-season goal with a late-game header. His ability to move efficiently and quickly around the field gives the Red Raiders a fold that not many teams can prepare for. Picco will make his mark on both ends of the field this year and will likely be one of those players who has a knack for making it big in the most important situations.

9. Tayghan Doorley (Jr., MF)

Tayghan Doorley is one of the most gifted athletes on the field in every single game, and her skills match her athleticism at this point in her career. Doorley has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and that proves she has a great flair for football. On the offensive, Doorley can do whatever job she’s given. She can control the ball in the middle of the field, she can find open teammates and pass lanes, or she can work her way up, make punctual runs and finish with balls in the back of the net. Doorley, on the flip side, is a strong, athletic force to be reckoned with as it routinely knocks the ball off opposing midfielders. She is often Hornell’s first line of defense, and she stops possessions before they even begin. His constant play across all three levels of the field will give the Red Raiders a big boost this season and bolster their championship hopes towards the end of the season.

10. Gates Miller (Jr., GK)

Gates Miller took over the network early in the 2020 season and never gave up his role thanks to absolutely outstanding performance between the pipes. Miller has grown tremendously both on and off the pitch over the past two seasons and that has shown in both his ability to save and his ability to direct the defense in front of him. One of Miller’s best skills is his ability to help his team transition from defense to offense. Miller is a master at grabbing the ball and throwing it to the Red Raider wide open in the room to create offensive opportunities. With Miller on the net, Hornell has the chance to win every single game they play and will likely only have to score one goal most nights to win the game. Miller has shutout two of the first three games, and only a slippery field has kept Miller from making one spectacular save after another. He’s a gem on the nights when Miller is tested as his willingness to sacrifice his body and direct his teammates makes him one of the best goalkeepers in Section V.