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Ava Duval turned in a stellar campaign as a senior forward for the Valley Regional girls’ soccer team in 2019. Ava scored 25 goals and earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors this fall. (Photo courtesy of Ava Duval )
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Ava Duval has always brought firepower to the front line for the Valley Regional girls’ soccer team, but the senior really took it to another level this season. Ava scored 25 goals for the Warriors while helping the club have a great campaign that featured 11 wins, an appearance in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final, and a berth in the Class M State Tournament. At the end of the season, Ava was presented with All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors for her performance.
“Obviously, it was amazing how we made it to the Shoreline finals. We haven’t even been in the tournament since I’ve been with the team. It was pretty amazing how we were able to do that,” says Ava. “I got First Team Shoreline Conference. I’ve been trying to do that for a while, and scoring 25 goals on the season was also pretty awesome.”
Valley saw a five-win improvement from the 2018 season, and Ava says those gains were the product of a different approach from top to bottom. Ava credits the leadership of first-year Head Coach Lauren MacDonald and new assistant coach Megan Perkins as key factors in the Warriors’ ascent.
“I think a lot of that came from our coach being such a big help this year. We had a lot of problems with getting everyone on the same page on the field,” Ava says. “Coach Lauren really brought a new view of being a very positive team that’s almost like a family. With us being so close like a family and loving each other, that really helped us achieve what we did this season.”
Following the example of her coaches, Ava wanted to serve as a positive influence on Valley’s younger players. As a senior, Ava knew that she would be relied upon to set an example for the team’s underclass athletes. Ava made sure that everyone knew what to do and when to do it.
“Getting to know the underclassmen really helped with leadership. We had a lot of younger players on the team this year, and getting to know them was helpful,” says Ava, who lives in Deep River. “I like to talk on the field a lot. Communicating with your team on the field is a huge thing. Through the season we struggled with that a bit, but we got better at the end of the year.”
Ava feels that her experience competing for the Valley outdoor track team had a big impact on her ability to beat opposing defenders on the pitch. Most of all, Ava feels grateful to her teammates, particularly fellow senior Sam Calamari, for putting her in a prime position to score goals.
“I definitely think that doing track helped me get faster,” Ava says. “My teammate Sam and I have been playing together since we were eight years old. We have this weird connection where we know what each other are going to do as we do it. Coach calls us ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly,’ because we go so well together. Sam assisted a lot of my goals, and she had 20-something assists. She and the rest of the team have given me a lot of my goals.”
Ava adds that her work on the track has done much more than just make her faster.
“Running track helped me get more competitive and helped me learn how to train my body more,” says Ava, who competes in the 400-meter dash. “Track is a bit more competitive than soccer. There aren’t many tactics to it. It’s just pure athletic ability.”
Coach MacDonald saw Ava’s contributions as an assistant coach last year and then as the Warriors’ head coach this season. MacDonald knows that a lot of her team’s success stemmed from the play of her senior forward.
“Ava is one of the hardest-working players and is always determined and focused on getting her job done as a forward. She is a role model for her teammates and is irreplaceable,” MacDonald says. “Ava will be missed incredibly next season as she has been an instrumental threat on attack during her career at Valley. She is planning on playing college soccer, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her.”
Looking back at her career with Valley soccer, Ava appreciates how much she’s grown during her four seasons with the team. Ava thinks that the Warriors are in a good spot going forward—and so is she.
“I think that we’ve definitely improved as a team over the last couple years, and I’ve made some major improvements,” Ava says. “My freshman year to senior year, I’ve improved as a player and I know that’s typical, but I feel I’ve become a much stronger person, as well, as a player during that time.”
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