By Kyle Daubs

Soccer looked strong in the county over the last decade.

Mattoon broke their school-record for wins twice, including a season best in 2019 with a record of 16-7-2. Along with that, there were three Regional Championships, which far surpassed their one title in the previous decade.

As for Charleston, a solid four-year stretch at the beginning of the decade featured some of the best soccer players the county has ever seen. Two 19-win campaigns, one undefeated season, an appearance in the Sweet 16 overshadowed the fact that the Lady Wave won more Regional titles than Charleston.

Despite Charleston finishing with just two Regional titles, the talent was there. Between both MHS and CHS, there are plenty of stars.

Our framework includes the following: a starting lineup that features one goal keeper, four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. Since there are four main positions, we included four members on the bench, apologized to one athlete, and provided one for fun.

Blow the whistle and let’s get rolling.

Starting Lineup

Goalkeeper: Kristen Gisondi (CHS-2013): This was a hard choice between Gisondi and Mattoon grad Shelby Cox, who is the school’s career leader in shutouts. Gisondi gets the nod because she was a two-time All-Area selection as a goalkeeper. Gisondi was the backstop for Charleston’s undefeated regular season, allowing seven goals during the regular season for a team that made a run to the Sweet 16. Gisondi went on to play at Monmouth College.

Defender: Claire Kidwell (MHS-2012): Kidwell was a First-Team All-Big 12 Conference defender. Kidwell cracks this starting lineup because she was the lone All-Conference member during her senior year. The Big 12 Conference featured some quality, powerhouse schools, so cracking this list as a defender is something to think about.

Defender: Brooke Tozer (CHS-2016): Tozer was a two-time All-Sectional selection as a defender before she went on to play at Parkland College. Tozer was apart of the 2014 defense that allowed just 15 goals all season. Tozer was also a two-time All-Apollo selection as well.

Defender: Sarah Gisondi: (CHS-2014): Gisondi primarily played as a defensive midfielder and finished her soccer career with the most games played at Charleston. Gisondi was a multi All-Apollo and All-Sectional recipient. Those remember Gisondi for her tough presence and ability to control the midfield. For an offensive stacked team that went 19-1-3 her junior season, Gisondi was named the team MVP. She played for a season at Monmouth before a concussion forced her to stop playing.

Defender: Cody Martin (CHS-2014): Martin was an All-Apollo selection on that defense in 2013 that allowed just 15 goals in 2014 and the defense that set a school-record for shutouts (16) in 2013. Martin went on to play at Heartland College.

Midfielder: Peyton Gill (MHS-2020): Gill lost her senior soccer season and still finished as the school’s record-holder for career assists. Gill was a leading component to Mattoon setting a school-record for wins (16-7-2) in 2019 when the team won a Regional Championship. Gill just graduated and will continue her career at Eastern Illinois University.

Midfielder: Megan Hjort (CHS-2013): Hjort finished her career as the the school’s fourth all-time in career points after totaling 52 goals and 21 assists. Hjort was part of three Regional Championship teams and scored Charleston’s lone goal in their Sectional Championship loss. Hjort continued her soccer career at Kaskaskia College before finishing at EIU.

Midfielder: Ali Carlson (CHS-2014): Carlson was a four-year starter and the perfect complement on Charleston’s offense. Carlson finished in the top-10 for career goals with 41. The left-footed mid was a main in setting up 104 goals in 2013 and 105 goals in 2014. Carlson continued her career at EIU.

Forward: Madi Fisher (CHS-2014): Someone had to score goals during that two-year stretch of 209 goals and one main fixture was Fisher. The teammate of Carlson at CHS, and eventually at EIU, finished second in CHS history with 68 career goals and 41 assists. Fisher was a two-time All-State recipient during Charleston’s back-to-back 19-win seasons.

Forward: Ali Hosey (CHS-2017): Hosey finished her career with 56 career goals, which is third-most all time. Hosey is also fourth all-time in career points with 56 goals and 21 assists. Hosey is finishing her career at EIU.

Forward: Jessica Nichols (MHS-2018): Nichols briefly held the school record for goals in a season (more on that later). Nichols scored a school record 33 goals in 2018 and became the career leader with 64 goals. Nichols scored the 64th goal with just minutes left in the team’s final game. Her 17 assists in a season tied one of her teammates for most in a season. Nichols was instrumental in leading Mattoon to a 14-8-1 season.

Bench

GK: Shelby Cox (MHS-2014): A shout-out has to go to 2018 grad Lexi Rankin (three-time All-Apollo), but the nod goes to Cox. She finished as the career record holder for shutouts and had the school record for shutouts in a season as well. Cox never played soccer until her freshman year, but was luckily recruited to come play her freshman season.

D: Emily Bumpus (CHS-2015): Bumpus was a two-time All-Sectional pick as a defender despite her size. Standing at 5-foot-5 and 104 pounds, Bumpus was All-Apollo and started on the team’s defense that allowed 15 goals in 2014.

MF: Saige Overton (MHS-2018): Overton finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in assists (27) before playing at Kaskaskia College. Overton’s 17 assists tied Nichols for the record for the single-season record.

F: Makenzie Burgess (CHS-2014): Burgess finished her career with 51 goals and was one of the best in the area on set pieces and penalty kicks. Burgess finished sixth all-time in career goals and went on to play at Kaskaskia College.

Apologies: There are two players that receive apologies for just missing the cut. The first goes to Lexi Rainwater (MHS-2013), who was once the record holder for single-season goals (26). Rainwater is second all-time with 46 career goals. The other goes to Julia Griffin (CHS-2018), who belted the third-most goals in a season (29) and finished with 47 career goals.

One for Fun: Faith Niebrugge (MHS-2022): Blame COVID-19 for Niebrugge not making the list. As a freshman, Niebrugge led Mattoon to an IHSA Regional Championship by scoring a school-record 35 goals as a freshman. Niebrugge had a chance to be the school’s all-time leading goal scorer with two years left. Goals are fun. Niebrugge scoring goals is fun. Next decade, she will be on the list. Guaranteed.