Kelly Walsh vs. Jackson Girls Soccer

Kelly Walsh’s Abree Hill moves the ball Friday, March 24, 2017 in Casper. Kelly Walsh beat Jackson 1-0.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

There was a lot about Abree Hill that made her stand out on the soccer pitch last spring.

A savvy midfielder with quickness and intelligence, her junior season showed a lot of promise. Kelly Walsh was the top team in the Class 4A West Conference going into the regional and Hill was at the center of it.

Her talent caught the eye of Laramie County Community College head coach Jim Gardner.

Gardner, who also coaches girls soccer at Cheyenne East, saw all of those reasons that made her unique on the field. Then he talked with her and knew that she would thrive as a Golden Eagle. Hill agreed and later committed to play at LCCC next season.

“I like her physical abilities, technically, speed of play, physical speed,” Gardner said. “She’s got a couple of moves that aren’t common with Wyoming kids. I like her academic success too. Overall character, her life and how she is. I like her a lot.”

Hill, a 2017 all-conference selection, was also recruited by Gillette College to play with her former teammate Bailey Neff and Kelly Walsh classmate Irie Elliott, but Hill chose LCCC instead. Instead of an upstart program that has been around only slightly longer than the lingering snow, the prestigious heritage of the Golden Eagles won out.

This season Laramie County CC won its 11th Region IX championship and advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament. The Golden Eagles have been a constant presence in the postseason and that can at least partly be contributed to the players Gardner has recruited.

There are three pillars of philosophy that he has instilled in the program: truthfulness, integrity and character. That has made Cheyenne a desirable destination for some of the best talent in Wyoming.

“We’ve done that a lot,” Gardner said of getting good in-state recruits. “I just think that it contributes to athleticism and they aren’t seen as much by other teams. They’re dual sport athletes and that makes them very good at what they do and able to compete all the time.”

This last season the Golden Eagles had Lauren Passini (Sheridan), Jazmine Moyte (Cheyenne South) and Taylor Stoeger (Green River), as well as Katie Loken, Izzy Lowry and Abby Morillon (Cheyenne East) on roster from Wyoming. Loken was a first-team All-American this season after leading the team with 25 goals. Morillon was a second-team All-American after a 14-goal, 13-assist season. Stoeger was named Region IX Freshman of the Year after tallying 20 goals and 19 assists in 19 games.

Gardner clearly has a history of getting the most out in-state soccer players and Hill could be the next chapter in that story. She’s already off to a good start with one high school season left to be played because Gardner thinks favorably of the Kelly Walsh program.

“(Head coach) Jerry (Realing) runs a good program and they have been for a long time,” Gardner said. “I like the characteristic of how he coaches, they play hard. I like they’re pretty physical and tactical formation with the 4-4-2.

“When you play Kelly Walsh you know you’ll have a tough game.”

Hill played in the middle last season for the Trojans but could move for her senior season to give her a better idea of where she could play at in college.

Gardner hopes to move her away from the center midfielder role that she has now and to more of a wide midfielder or even at forward. Hill had five goals and an assist for Kelly Walsh last season.

“Her skills in the middle may not be as good as I think she’ll be in a different position with our skilled people around,” Gardner said. “She’ll excel as a wide out.”

Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @Brady_CST

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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