Over the course of the past four years, it’d be much easier to count the games in which Lily Fitzgerald didn’t score, rather than the ones in which she did. That’s just how near-automatic she was.
The Sun Valley Community School senior entered her final season with little to really prove. She had already set the school record for goals in a season with 51 last year. She also broke the girls soccer program scoring record of 105 goals, and the overall school record — held by her brother — of 115 tallies.
And, somehow, in four fewer games than the previous season, Fitzgerald still managed to shatter her own records and produce her best season yet.
“She’s just all the things you want in an athlete and a teammate,” Cutthroats head coach Kelly Feldman said. “She deserves it.”
In 19 games, Fitzgerald totaled 53 scores. She upped her career tally to a final total of 176 goals and, for the second year in a row, Fitzgerald is the Times-News girls soccer player of the year.
Despite being the most successful scorer in the history of a storied program, Fitzgerald is quick to note that it hardly comes down to simply her individual performance.
“I played a lot more soccer this year than I have in years past,” Fitzgerald said. “I went to a couple other camps but, mostly, I just think it was our team. We had a really strong team this year.”
The Cutthroats, led from the front by Fitzgerald, put together an unbeaten regular season, cruising to a conference title and entering the 3A state tournament with plenty of momentum.
Sun Valley Community School’s only loss of the season came in the 3A state semifinals against Sugar-Salem, when Fitzgerald and the Cutthroats were shut out. In the third-place game that followed, though, Fitzgerald capped off her career with a hat trick in a 3-1 win against Marsh Valley.
“She scored all five goals at state,” Feldman said. “She made the difference. We knew if we could get her the ball, she could put it in the net and we’re well on our way.”
One very clear instance of Fitzgerald’s influence came in the 3A High Desert Conference championship game against Kimberly on Oct. 10.
Fitzgerald had missed both regular season games against the Bulldogs, who were second to the Cutthroats in the conference standings at the end of the year. In her first opportunity to play against the team closest to her own in terms of record, Fitzgerald showed why she and the Cutthroats were actually in a class of their own.
She scored a goal in the first minute. By the eighth minute, she had a hat trick. In the 22nd minute, Fitzgerald notched her fifth score of the day.
Despite her sterling scoring record that ended up at an average of over two goals per game in her four-year career, Fitzgerald said that type of performance wasn’t all that common, and again made sure to divert some credit to her teammates for putting her in those positions.
“I wouldn’t say that was normal and I wouldn’t say it’s easy either,” Fitzgerald said. “Our team does a really good job playing offensively.”
While Fitzgerald has been a four-year player, she’s always had some sort of leadership influence, especially since she’s always been the player the Cutthroats have looked to for goals.
However, Feldman felt her star took her leadership qualities to an even higher level as a senior, which helped Fitzgerald produce another standout campaign.
“She’s always been a leader on the field, since her freshman year,” Feldman said. “With that kind of athletic ability, it just kind of happens naturally. But, when you’re officially in charge, it’s that little bit different. Sometimes kids can’t handle it, but she stepped into it and had no trouble continuing.”
Fitzgerald has made no decisions about her future, as she wants to continue playing soccer, but is also a high-level alpine skier. She’s exploring the possibility of continuing one, the other, or both in some capacity.
What she leaves behind is a scoring record that Feldman doubts will be broken. Fitzgerald said she’s not too confident someone will reach her mark, but added that she figured nobody would ever hit her brother’s, and she ended up 61 goals past it.
In the end, though, Fitzgerald is far less concerned with the numbers she compiled, both in her final season and over her career. She’s more pleased that she can look back fondly upon her time as a Cutthroat.
“Playing as a Community School Cutthroat made me love soccer more than I ever thought I could,” Fitzgerald said.