Keller senior AK Ward didn’t grow up here, but it didn’t take her long to fit in, especially on the soccer team.
She transferred into Keller her sophomore season, and will be leaving high school as the 2017 Star-Telegram Girls Super Team Player of the Year.
“The first day we got a ball out, we knew within the first five minutes that we had gotten really lucky,” Keller coach Billy Griffiths recounts of his early memories of Ward, who had actually made an impression on another Keller star, Berklee Peters, when the two coincidentally met at a national club tournament in California the year before.
Ward commonly plays center forward, which afforded her the opportunity to lead the team with 24 goals this season. Unlike most central attackers, though, Ward also led her team in assists with 27. Both totals were among the top in the area.
“We have a lot of good players come through, but it’s hard to find players who like to play with their back to goal,” Griffiths said. “Most players like to face the goal and get balls played through or played over they can go get. But she’s the kind of player that can play up high and turn around.”
Ward attributes her success to more than talent. There’s also the work ethic needed to fit into the Indians system.
“Our system is definitely hard work, hard work, hard work,” she said. “Lose the ball …win the ball immediately. On 50-50 balls, we always want to be first to those. I think I’m a hard worker, so that played really well into it.”
Ward will be off to Starkville, Miss., this summer, where she’ll begin her playing career in the SEC for the Bulldogs.
2017 Girls Soccer Super Team
F Haley Ward, Sr., Keller Timber Creek: Finished with a school-record 40 goals to lead the area. Recorded nine hat tricks. Co-Offensive MVP of District 3-6A.
F Hannah Allred, Sr., Nolan Catholic: A first team All-state TAPPS selection, recorded 25 goals and 19 assists.
F Courtney Sebazco, Jr., Timber Creek: Co-MVP of District 3-6A. Led the area with 32 assists. Also had 28 goals.
F Caylen Wright, Soph., Joshua: District 9-5A MVP had 26 goals and four assists.
F/M AK Ward, Sr., Keller: Co-Offensive MVP of District 3-6A. Recorded 24 goals and 27 assists.
F/M Mitzy Guereca, Jr., Castleberry: Among area leaders with 32 goals. Added nine assists and was co-MVP of District 7-4A.
F/M Maddie Martin, Sr., Birdville: MVP of District 8-5A, had 15 goals and 18 assists.
M Alondra Olmos, Sr., Kennedale: Co-MVP of District 7-4A, had eight goals to go with 21 assists.
M Hannah Webb, Sr., Mansfield: MVP of District 4-6A, provided the Tigers with 25 goals and 16 assists this season.
M Alli Gardner, Sr., Southlake Carroll: Co-MVP of District 5-6A, the four-year starter finished with 12 goals and 10 assists.
M Rebecca Keane, Sr., Keller: Co-Midfielder of the Year in District 3-6A. Scored 13 goals with 10 assists.
D Daphne Hunt, Jr., Kennedale: Part of a defense that didn’t surrender a single goal in district play. Named Defensive MVP in District 7-4A.
D Brittany Martin, Sr. Southlake Carroll: District Defensive MVP for the second time, is the school leader in goals and assists by a defender.
D Kristen Burns, Jr. Aledo: Defensive MVP of 6-5A. That unit shut out seven of their final eight regular-season opponents. Added two goals and two assists.
D Haylee Hulse, Sr., Grapevine: A two-time Super Team selection. Also a two-time district Defensive MVP.
GK Kyleigh Hall, Sr., Mansfield Legacy: A two-time Super Team selection, had 14 shutouts and didn’t allow more than one goal in any regular-season match.