The name of the game in soccer is putting the ball in the net, something the 2023 Deseret News Players of the Year could do with the best of them. But it was also their willingness to be a committed two-way player who put in the defensive work that contributed to their respective teams winning state championships.
Here’s a look at the 2023 Deseret News girls soccer Players of the Year who made the biggest impact on the field this past season.
Kate Denney, Lone Peak, MF, Jr.
Lone Peak was a team loaded with Division I talent this season, and junior midfielder Kate Denney made sure that talent was performing at peak level throughout the season with her quality and leadership.
“Kate Denney was at the core of our success this year, not only on the field as an impact player but as a captain and leader. Kate is known for being everyone’s cheerleader and the voice of our team. There was a noticeable difference when she was off the field when it came to our ability to control the ball, win balls in the air, and keep possession, but also our communication. We were not as good of a team when Kate Denney was off the field,” said Lone Peak coach Shantel Jolley.
Denney finished the season with 10 goals and five assists for the 6A state champs, and was the “engine” of the team, according to Jolley. She even played through the playoffs with an injury.
The BYU commit has racked up 28 goals and 24 assists in three high school seasons, and she’ll be one of the top players to watch again next season as she looks to lead the Knights to back-to-back 6A titles.
Mika Krommenhoek, Maple Mountain, MF, Sr.
Behind every great soccer team is often an unsung defensive midfielder, and that was certainly the case for state champion Maple Mountain with senior Mika Krommenhoek.
The BYU commit was a destroyer defensively when she needed to be, but she could also deliver a killer ball out of the back, as evidenced by her 15 assists. Like any good defensive mid, she found her name on the scoresheet in several games, as well as delivered five goals.
“Mika was an invaluable member of our team this year. Her skills and vision made her someone that we always wanted on the field. Her drive, effort and confidence made her a player that elevated her teammates. From defending the opponents’ best player to creating attacking opportunities, Mika did it all for us,” said Maple Mountain coach Cliff Swain.
Maple Mountain started the season slow with a 2-5 record with a young roster, but it went 12-1 over its final 13 games to claim the 5A state championship.
Krommenhoek came up huge in the playoffs, notching three assists in the Golden Eagles’ 3-2 overtime win over Timpview in the second round, and then scoring a goal in the 2-1 win over Olympus in the semifinals.
Austin Miller, Green Canyon, F, Sr.
The leadership and finishing ability of senior striker Austin Miller played a huge role in Green Canyon claiming its first girls soccer state championship this fall.
Miller scored in two of four playoff wins for Green Canyon, including a goal in the 2-0 championship game win over Park City as she finished her senior season with 15 goals and six assists. For her career, she tallied 34 goals and nine assists.
“Austin is a player that has a ton heart and passion for the game of soccer and this team. Austin was important to this team in many ways but her dynamic play on offense and relentless pressure on defense is how she helped lead our team. I would say her biggest strength is how great of a leader she is, both vocally and how she plays on the field,” said Green Canyon coach Kirt Sadler.
Her relentless effort to press defensively played a big role in helping Green Canyon, as it never allowed teams to get comfortable and maintain possession. As a result, the Wolves only conceded 10 goals all season and, incredibly, none in the final eight games of the season.
Miller has signed to compete at the next level at Utah State.
Nevaeh Peregrina, Ogden, MF, Sr.
Sixty-eight goals and 39 assists paints a pretty clear picture about what a remarkable career Nevaeh Peregrina has enjoyed at Ogden High School over the past four years, which includes state titles in 2021 and 2023.
Her coach said those accolades only tell a part of the story about her impact.
“Nevaeh has left her mark on Utah and Ogden High soccer. Those that know her will know that her on-the-field ability is only part of her legacy. She has impacted the lives of many of those with whom she has played,” said Ogden coach Ryan Robinson. “Ogden High, and me personally, will benefit from having crossed paths for years to come.”
The Deseret News Ms. Soccer recipient as a junior last season, she enjoyed an even more productive senior season this fall as she racked up 28 goals and 18 assists on Ogden’s juggernaut squad that went 17-2 overall. Against 3A teams, the Tigers were 13-0 with 111 goals scored and five allowed.
“Neveah is a maestro that can pull all the strings. She certainly gets her fair share of goals and touches on the ball, but also finds ways to include those around her. I cannot wait to see her legacy continue,” said Robinson.
Peregrina will continue her college career at the University of Portland next season.
Paige Connery, Rowland Hall, MF, Sr.
After missing the final month of the high school soccer season last fall while recovering from major surgery, Paige Connery entered her senior season at Rowland Hall this year with some legitimate concerns about how her body would hold up.
Turns out, she had nothing to worry about.
The senior enjoyed a sensational season with 30 goals and 10 assists in leading Rowland Hall to the 2A state championship. Connery is a central midfielder who is known for her great shot, and is a strong technical player who can attack 1v1.
“Her ability to create space off the dribble and to produce quality shooting chances is top notch. She became a better distributor of the ball as the season progressed and that made her even more dangerous in the final third. She is accurate on her set pieces and can score from well outside the top of the box,” said Rowland Hall coach Bobby Kennedy.
He praised her defensive commitment as well, a big area of focus coming into the season.
“Her biggest area of growth centered around her defensive responsibilities. She improved her work rate without the ball and her ability to win balls back early in transition became a priority. This changed how the team defended at the top end of the pitch,” said Kennedy.