Links to 2018 girls soccer All-Area teams and stories are below this story.SYRACUSE — When Caroline Stringfellow was 3 years old, she played on a soccer team with her 5-year-old sister, Brooklyn.
One day, Caroline scored her first goal. She picks up the story from there.
“I just remember (Brooklyn) dribbling down the field and she would pick me up and put me in front of the goal and then she would push me and I kicked it in. That was my first goal: she pushed me and I kicked it,” Stringfellow said.
In a way, the 2018 season came full circle for the girl who will probably have most, if not every, Syracuse girls soccer scoring record by the time she graduates.
Stringfellow is the 2018 Standard-Examiner All-Area Girls Soccer Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row for a season in which she totaled 22 goals, 16 assists, led the Titans to a second-straight Region 1 championship and an appearance in the state semifinals.
Statistics-wise, this season’s haul technically paled in comparison to last year’s (29 goals and 32 assists).
And the Titans, who lost in the 6A title game in 2017, lost in the 2018 semifinals to eventual champion Lone Peak.
But this season was a ton of fun, Stringfellow said. Actually, it was the best season.
It didn’t have anything to do with the team’s results and her statistics. It had to do with who was playing goalkeeper.
That was her sister, Brooklyn, a senior. Brooklyn didn’t start at goalkeeper in 2017 as a junior when the younger Caroline broke out for her eye-popping freshman year.
But Brooklyn started this season in goal with her younger sister prowling past opposing defenses on the other end of the field.
“This was the best season because we both started and it was so fun. I wish there was one more season and we could play one more time together and maybe win it, but it was fun while it lasted,” Stringfellow said.
There was less personal pressure on her shoulders this year, too. Back in May, she verbally committed to play at BYU after her freshman season attracted the attention of several Division I college programs.
About BYU: her dad is a Utah fan, her mom is a BYU fan, her oldest sister goes to Utah and her older brother is going to attend Utah as well after a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But they make it work, Stringfellow said.
“I always tell (my dad) I’m going to get him a BYU shirt or my mom says she’s going to get him some BYU stuff, everybody jokes and says (to my dad) ‘Oh, I thought you’d never trade to BYU’ after I committed there. He says, ‘I don’t wear BYU stuff unless it says BYU soccer,’” she said.
The other thing that stellar freshman season did is alert opponents to her play — unlike when teams suited up against Syracuse in 2017 and wondered who the 5-foot-3 midfielder was.
More often than not this year, one player defended her and another watched her ready to help defend. Stringfellow said she had to work a lot harder this year.
Through it all, she remained the calm presence that’s turned her into one of the team’s leaders, head coach Taylor Allen said.
“I think it was frustrating for her; that’s a lot of credit to her too, never once did she vocalize that. You never saw her unleash on a ref,” Allen said.
She would move to the wing sometimes, drawing defenders’ attention outside and freeing up space in the middle for the Titans’ three forwards who combined for 37 goals this season.
Twenty of them came from junior Ashlyn Hall, who primarily played in the middle up top.
But after two prolific individual and team seasons, Stringfellow could only think of the Lone Peak game when the season ended.
Even three weeks after the state semifinal, Stringfellow trailed off when she thought about it.
“It was hard losing to Lone Peak in the last game because we’re going to be losing all our seniors now and my sister is one of those seniors, and that was one of the hard parts about it all,” she said.
There is always next year, though. The Titans will have Stringfellow back to support the forward line — that is, if she doesn’t end up as a forward anyway.
“She’s insanely talented, somebody who’s willing to play a part of a system, she’s the ultimate team player,” Allen said.