Niceville's Edwards named Daly News AOTW

·3 min read

NICEVILLE — "A hidden gem," that's how Kelly Fernandez referred to Sophia Edwards in the preseason.

Well, following Niceville's 5-0 start to 2021, the secret's out. The sophomore midfielder can flat-out ball.

Her movement and awareness without the ball is transcendent. Her ability to always be in the right spot is uncanny. To boot, she possess the ball on a string.

Sophia Edwards dribbles past a Navarre defender in a 1-0 win earlier this year.
Sophia Edwards dribbles past a Navarre defender in a 1-0 win earlier this year.

The talent was on display in the season-opener against Fort Walton, Edwards delivering two goals and an assist in a 5-0 win.

She tacked on another goal in a shutout of Crestview, then on Nov. 17 in a 1-0 victory over rival Navarre she netted the game-winner.

The latter awarded her a Daily News Athlete of the Week nomination, and the Niceville community backed her with 40% of the 12,000-plus votes to edge South Walton linebacker Will Volpe and Fort Walton midfielder Christian Gomez for the honor.

Naturally, Edwards said "it felt really good" to get the outpouring of support.

But this is only the beginning for the underclassman, who wasn't guaranteed of a starting spot entering Fernandez's first year at the helm. So Edwards went to work, listened and proved herself as she became an integral part of a team that's grown leaps and bounds from the preseason to outscore foes 24-1 three weeks in.

"It's definitely a lot of training — three hours a day," said the 15-year-old, who counts Linda Duffey and Isabella Huston as her best friends on the squad "Coach is big about commitment to the team. It's about the team more than the individual.

"In the preseason games we won but we didn't play that well. The more we practice together the better we've played. Now we're more of a team. We're all really close."

With the team's success has come individual growth for Edwards. Now, her ability to put up points all but proven, it's about building on all the tangible talents with the intangibles.

"I have to be more aggressive," she said.

Fernandez called it a "bear" mentality, and Edwards wants to channel that to both become a better defender and create her own shot from that right center-mid spot.

"I don't play as much defense," she said. "I have a good offensive mind, but I need to be more well-rounded."

Fortunately Edwards is a coaches dream, a sponge ready to soak up whatever's thrown her way.

"I just do what they tell," she said.

Of course soccer didn't always come naturally to Edwards. When she was 6 years old, she wasn't the best player on the pitch.

"At first she was terrible," laughed her dad, who was her first coach.

Now she's the Daily News' first Athlete of the Week on the pitch — imminently gifted and a key cog on the area's best team.

"(Coach Fernandez) always says 'one goal at a time,' " she said. "The goal is to come together. The goal is to win."

For AOTW nominations, text Sports Editor Seth Stringer at 252-414-4239.

This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Niceville soccer's Sophia Edwards named Daly News AOTW

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