DeKALB – Taylor Harrison recently wrapped up the best girls soccer season in Sauk Valley history. On Wednesday night, she capped it off with another prize.
The Dixon junior-to-be was named the Girls Soccer Athlete of the Year at the second annual Shaw Media Most Valuable Athlete Awards Banquet at the NIU Convocation Center, an event honoring the standout athletes from all sports among the Shaw Media family of newspapers, covering more than 100 high schools in northern Illinois spanning from the Chicago suburbs to the Mississippi River.
The forward was quick to share the award with the rest of the Duchesses.
“Getting awards like this and all-state, without my teammates I couldn’t do it, obviously,” Harrison said. “It was an amazing season, and like always, it’s such a fun time. I have the best teammates, and the best support system, from them to my coaches and my family. To have all of them helping me do my best, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I’m super proud of us all.”
Already an all-state and all-conference performer, Harrison was selected over three other finalists for the MVA award. Her 57 goals shattered the Duchesses’ previous single-season scoring record, and she broke her own school record of 29 assists she set as a freshman in 2018 with 31 in her sophomore season. She helped lead Dixon to its fifth consecutive undefeated season in Big Northern Conference play.
“Playing soccer with this team, it’s just so much fun because you never know if it might be your game [to shine] or somebody else’s game,” Harrison said. “But whenever somebody else has a great game, you’re super excited for them, and it’s the same way when you have a good game, too. They’re always on board with you and you’re always on board with them, and you just support each other back and forth.
“It’s just an amazing experience with our team, and I couldn’t be happier for our team. I wish we could’ve gone farther [in the postseason]; we have the team enthusiasm to get there, we just have to push through and find our sweet spot.”
There was also quite a bit of success for local tennis players, both last fall and this spring.
The Newman doubles team of Maddy Jacobs and Sydney Schott won the Girls Tennis Athletes of the Year honor after a sensational season, and an especially scintillating performance in the postseason.
“We were super excited to hear our names called,” Jacobs said. “I’m really going to miss playing with Sydney.”
“We weren’t expecting it at all,“ Schott added. “Maddy almost started crying. This is so amazing.”
Jacobs and Schott lost just one game – in the semifinals – as they rolled into the Class 1A Ottawa Sectional title match, then downed the No. 1 Ottawa duo 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to take the championship. Jacobs advanced to state for the third straight season, while Schott enjoyed her first trip into the suburbs for the final tournament of the year.
At state, the Comets duo won its first two matches, then dropped into the consolation bracket with a three-set loss in the third round. After rain delayed their Friday matches, Jacobs and Schott wopn their first match in straight sets on Saturday, before falling in the fifth round of the consolation bracket.
Winning the MVA award was the perfect capper to Jacobs’ career, while Schott will use it as motivation to get back to the MVAs in her senior season next year.
“It means a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s been a blast, playing tennis at Newman, I couldn’t have done it without Sydney. It was such a fun year.”
“It makes me definitely want to work harder for next year to get back here,” Schott said. “But I’m definitely going to miss Maddy.”
On the boys side, Sterling junior Dillon Nitz earned the honor as the Boys Tennis Athlete of the Year after finishing his second straight season without a dual-meet loss at No. 1 singles for the Golden Warriors, and he also claimed his third consecutive No. 1 singles title at the NIB-12 Conference Meet.
Once into the postseason, he lost a total of five games in his first three matches at the 1A Rochelle Sectional before falling in straight sets in the sectional championship. At the state meet, he won a first-round match before falling in the second round, but he bounced back to win his first consolation match before dropping his third-round consolation. It’s the third time in his 3 years on varsity that he’s won at least one match at the state tournament.
Other finalists from the Sauk Valley area were Sterling’s Josi Borum (volleyball, female athlete of the year), Newman’s Devon House (boys basketball), Eastland’s Erin Henze (girls basketball), Oregon’s Austin Strite (boys bowling), Sterling’s Jayme Eilers (softball) and Fulton’s Chloe Lindeman (girls track & field).