The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette acknowledge the best female spring sports athletes from the area's high schools with the annual Spring Sports MVPs and All-Area teams:
Kelsey Fitzhugh is one of nine Hilton Head Island High girls soccer plays bound for the college level next fall. She doesn't fill up the stat sheet with goal after goal, and she doesn't find herself recognized for any game-changes saves in the net.
But the senior still manages to stick out on a roster full of stars. Her versatility was what won over her coach, and it's why she has been named this year's Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette Player of the Year.
Never miss a local story.
"She played every position for me no matter what, where, when," said coach Ernie Suozzi, who took home coach of the year honors. "She was a factor in every game. After every game, every coach was like, 'Who's (No.) 23? Who's 23? She's a beast. And she is."
Fitzhugh -- who will play for Charleston Southern next season alongside teammates Nikki Schoning and Jordan Haughton-James -- just likes to contribute, she said.
"I like to help my team out in any way I can," she added.
She did that and more. She played 10 of 11 positions this season for a Seahawks team that captured its third consecutive Class 3-A state championship, and would have gone into the goal if Suozzi needed her to. She found herself in the net last year in a shootout, registering a pair of saves in a Hilton Head High victory.
"When you don't score the goals, people don't see (you)," said Suozzi, who said his Seahawks likely wouldn't have won the state championship without Fitzhugh. "But she's such a major factor in everybody else scoring. She wins head balls, everything. To me, it's not even close."
She thrives most at the defensive midfield position, where she will likely continue to play for the Buccaneers. Her work there this season helped Hilton Head High match a school record with 18 shutouts, which she helped initially set with 18 more in 2012.
"I think I'm most comfortable in the midfield position," she said. "I have the view of the field when I get the ball. Growing with the girls I've played with over the last four years, we talk to each other almost telepathically, really. We know where each other is."
Player of the Year: Kelsey Fitzhugh, Hilton Head High
Coach of the Year: Ernie Suozzi, Hilton Head High
All-area team: Carmen Alvarez, Beaufort High; Emily Crick, Hilton Head Island; Amanda Green, Hilton Head Island; Ashley Green, Hilton Head Island; Lexi Lainhart, Hilton Head Christian; Jordan Haughton-James, Hilton Head Island; Faith Lifer, Hilton Head Island; Bridgette Noonan, Hilton Head Island; Miranda Weslake, Beaufort Academy
TRACK AND FIELD
Kaila Smith made the most of her short time at Beaufort High School.
The daughter of two former Eagles' track standouts, Smith gave Beaufort High track coach Herb Glaze plenty of options after the family moved to Beaufort before the school year. And her times her favorite event, the 400-meter hurdles, foreshadowed what was to come in May.
Smith coasted to victory at the Class 4-A meet to win a state title in the 400 hurdles. She finished second in the 100 hurdles and helped the 4x400 relay to a seventh-place finish.
Her performance in Columbia came the same week she signed to run track at Coastal Carolina.
And Smith wasn't done. She dominated at the Central American Junior Championships in May and plans to run in the AAU National Club Championships in July and this week at the New Balance Nationals.
"No matter how good you become, you're not great until you have a world championship, a world record and an Olympic championship," Smith said before the season. "You've got to still work hard. People are always coming along."
Athlete of the Year: Kaila Smith, Beaufort High
Coach of the Year: Herbert Glaze, Beaufort High
All-area team: Amanda Barnes, Beaufort High; Daisja Cannon, Battery Creek; Rachel Friend, Hilton Head High; Johnnie Gaston, Bluffton; Kemoni Jenkins, Whale Branch; Faith Lifer, Hilton Head High; Carley McGlinn, Hilton Head High; Quamecha Morrison, Battery Creek; Tiara Nelson, Ridgeland-Hardeeville; TyDasha Rivers, Ridgeland-Hardeeville; Kaila Smith, Beaufort High
Kim Kerby was just happy to be able to fully participate again, and she made the most of it.
The Bluffton High School junior, who underwent surgery on her elbow after her freshman season and was limited as a sophomore, was cleared to hit and play the field before the Bobcats' season this spring. The third baseman batted more than .500 and hit four home runs, including a game-winner at Beaufort High School.
"My focus was just to play my game," Kerby said. "I know how to play. I just wanted to have fun, because I know we had talent and people were going to pick me up if I did something wrong."
Kerby was named all-state in Class 4-A and was an all-region selection for 8-AAAA.
She helped Bluffton reach the Lower State final, where it fell to Summerville.
"It was obvious we were putting in hard work when we were practicing," Kerby said. "We really wanted to go to state and make school history and all that stuff. That was our motivation, to do something with the team. Because we knew we had the talent."
Kerby has been a varsity member since she was a freshman, but her injury held her back. She needed surgery to remove soft bone from her elbow and could not play the field as a sophomore.
She has landed on a higher-profile travel team than the previous summer and hopes to earn attention from college coaches before preparing for her senior year.
"I'm just expecting to play my game again and see what happens," she said.
Player of the Year: Kim Kerby, Bluffton
Coach of the Year: Bill Ball, Bluffton
All-area team: Michelle Brown, Beaufort High; Selice Daly, Thomas Heyward; Taylor Ernestine, Thomas Heyward; Whitney Halley, Hilton Head High; Brielle Jungblut, Thomas Heyward; Kim Kerby, Bluffton; Whitney Morrell, Bluffton; Kenyada Moultrie, Whale Branch; Jenny Mullins, Beaufort High; Courtney Smith, Bluffton
Haley Matousek came into high school last year with big goals in mind, expecting to lead the Seahawks lacrosse team even though she was merely a freshman.
It didn't happen right away -- she finished second in goals behind then-senior Elaine Natoli -- but the foundation was set the rest of her career with Hilton Head High. She built on her freshman campaign in 2013, leading the Seahawks in scoring while also taking home team MVP honors.
"That was my attitude as a freshman," she said. "I wanted to make a different on this team right when I came in."
Her patience paid off when the results didn't immediately show. Matousek was recently named a Brine National High School All-American and also took home second team all-Lower State honors from S.C. Lacrosse.
"I was pretty excited," she said. "I was happy that I was able to be the leading scorer, and I was happy I was able to help lead this team. Hopefully I'll be able to lead this team in my junior and senior year."
Player of the Year: Haley Matousek, Hilton Head High
Coach of the Year: Kathleen Marshall, Hilton Head High