After every soccer match, Rylee Howard looks down at both of her legs and smiles.
The Lafayette High junior is more than used to seeing cuts, scratches, cleat marks and various other battle scars.
"Can't remember the last time I didn't have them," she said. "I don't mind. It's part of the game."
It's also part of being the most dangerous finisher in the state.
The Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls soccer player of the year, Howard is coming off a stellar campaign in which she scored 41 times and handed out 12 assists to help the Lancers reach the Class 4 sectional round. She recorded 11 multi-goal games, including a five-goal outburst and a pair of four-goal performances.
The 5-foot-4 speedball dominated matches from the beginning of the season to the end.
And she did so despite drawing major attention from all of her opponents.
That's where the cuts and bruises come into play. Most opponents used two and sometimes three or four players to follow her every move.
The intense marking could take its toll on most players.
"It means that the other team was all over me and I take that as a compliment," she said. "That's kind of like a type of respect."
It also means Howard had to work for each and every one of her tallies. The Lancers, who finished 18-6, played a tough schedule and were placed in a loaded district.
Lafayette had very few blowout wins due to its rugged slate.
"She earned every single goal," Lafayette coach Melissa Schroeder said. "Nothing was easy because of all the attention she drew. Physically, it was tough day in and day out. She just took it and responded by continuing to score and continuing to make plays."
Howard said it has been years since she was allowed any space on the field. She faced a four-pack of defenders in a pair of matches against Eureka this season, yet she remained a major force up top.
Still, all of that extra attention can be excruciating.
"It's more exhausting mentally because it gets you so frustrated," Howard said. "Things may not be going your way. You just have to push through it."
Although she has the marks to display the blows she has taken, Howard remained calm and cool under the physical pressure.
She did not receive a single yellow card this past season, even though she was tempted to cut loose with a push or two.
"Sometimes, I feel like getting even," she said. "But that's not going to help the team. The best way is to keep scoring."
No matter what other teams try to do, Howard simply goes about her business and gets the job done. Schroeder says the key to Howard's success lies in her strong work ethic. She goes to the gym on a regular basis and is rarely without a soccer ball at her feet.
"There's no one that has made a more personal commitment to get better," Schroeder said.
Explained Lafayette senior teammate Brynn Jeffries, “Watching how hard she worked made the rest of us work harder, too."
Howard, who had 30 goals and 10 assists as a freshman in 2019, recently was selected as the Gatorade player of the year in Missouri.
She has given a verbal commitment to attended the University of Wisconsin, a Big 10 Conference school that traditionally is ranked in the top 25.
Howard possesses lightning-quick speed, especially when on the attack
"How fast she moves with the ball, it’s insane,” Jeffries said. “Her foot skills are so amazing.”
Howard has the ability to take over a match at a moment's notice.
Her biggest tally of the season came against Marquette in a district semifinal. With the season on the brink, she scored from long range with 40 seconds left to send the contest into overtime. Lafayette then won 3-2 on a golden goal by freshman Emily Derucki.
Howard loves to play in cold weather, which played a role in her decision to go to Wisconsin.
But for now, she is looking forward to continuing her training with an eye on a final four berth for the Lancers next season.
"I just want to get to be the best I can," she said. "I'm not there yet. It’s going to take a lot more work.”
2021 All-Metro girls soccer first team
F: Grace Bindbeutel, junior, St. Dominic
Go-to scorer on Class 4 championship team, which ran the table with a 25-0 mark. Scored 22 goals, including four game-winning tallies. Had at least one point in last 17 matches of the season. Had a hand in four of the Crusaders’ eight goals in final four. Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association Class 4 player of the year.
F: Emily Gaebe, senior, Union
The St. Louis University-bound striker tallied 42 goals and had seven games of three goals or more. Finished three-year career with 155 goals and 36 assists. Helped the Wildcats reach the final four in all three years, topped off with Class 3 third-place finish this season. Also helped Union girls basketball team to third-place state finish in Class 5.
F: Chloe Netzel, senior, Liberty
Topped the area with 54 goals, which included 16 multi-goal performances. Tallied five goals in a match twice. Netzel was a Class 3 first team all-state selection and was the Gateway Athletics Conference Central player of the year. She led Eagles to a 17-5 record that was first winning season in program history. Signed with Xavier University.
M: Sophia Cross, senior, Fort Zumwalt South
The glue that helped the Bulldogs to their first state championship, Cross had 12 goals and 19 assists. Her ability to dominate play in the midfield played a key role in the title run. Named the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association player of the year in Class 3, Cross is headed to the University of Miami in Ohio.
M: Aubrey Mister, senior, O’Fallon
The top gun on O’Fallon’s first state championship team, Mister had 27 goals, eight game-winners. An all-state choice by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association, Mister scored both goals as Panthers rallied for a 2-1 win over Libertyville in the Class 3A state semifinals. Will continue her career at the University of Memphis.
M: Gracie Giacoletto, senior, Triad
Appalachian State signee helped key the Knights’ run to the program’s third Class 2A state championship. Anchored a midfield that allowed just three goals all season and posted 15 successive shutouts to end the campaign. Tallied eight goals and had a knack for scoring at the right time, including game-winners in three of the final four games of the season. All-state selection by Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association.
M: Brooke Cattoor, sophomore, Fort Zumwalt South
Leading scorer on the Class 3 state champion Bulldogs with 31 goals and 21 assists. Selected as Class 3 co-offensive player of the year by Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association. Tallied four goals in an 8-0 sectional win over Washington. Came up clutch in second half with lone tally of 1-0 quarterfinal victory at Parkway West.
D: Ashley Martinez, senior, St. Dominic
A rock in the final third, Martinez anchored a Crusaders defense that gave up just 14 goals in 25 matches. Also scored seven goals and handed out seven assists. Selected as co-defensive player of the year in Class 4 by Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association. Signed with the University of Wisconsin, a perennial Big 10 Conference power.
D: Mackenzie Duff, senior, Nerinx Hall
All-state performer was a two-way threat for the Markers, who led early before losing to St. Dominic 3-1 in the Class 4 state championship match. Duff scored 11 goals, including a picture-perfect header late a 1-0 win over Lafayette in sectional play. She also had lone goal of 1-0 quarterfinal victory against Cor Jesu. A basketball standout and All-Metro pick in that sport as well, Duff will play soccer at Clemson University.
D: Rylie Combs, senior, St. Dominic
Helped the Crusaders outscore their opponents 128-14 on the way to a 25-0 record and the Class 4 state title, the sixth in program history and second in succession after the Class 3 crown in 2019. Will play at Mississippi State University. Co-defensive player of the year with teammate Ashley Martinez on Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association all-state team.
G: Maddie Davis, senior, Gibault
Signed with Western Kentucky University. Recorded a whopping 259 saves, including 26 stops April 30 in a 1-0 loss to eventual Class 1A state champion Althoff. Made a key save and also scored a shootout goal in a 2-1 sectional victory over Breese Central decided by penalty kicks. Davis was an all-sectional honoree by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association.
2021 All-Metro girls soccer second team
F: Laney Harshany, sophomore, Triad
Known for her flip throw-ins, which helped Harshany amass 13 assists. The final one set up the only goal in Triad’s victory to claim the third Class 2A state championship in program history and cap a 24-0-1 season. Also scored 14 goals, including lone goal in state semifinal win, and was the Knights’ leading scorer with 41 points.
F: Regan Moody, junior, Althoff
Helped lead the Crusaders to the Class 1A state championship with 33 goals and 16 assists. Scored four goals twice over the final four games of the season, including a 7-0 win over Timothy Christian in the state final to establish a record for goals in a title game. South Seven Conference offensive player of the year.
F: Audrey Smith, freshman, Fort Zumwalt South
Had 22 goals and 16 assists to help Bulldogs win the first state championship in program history. Scored three times and added an assist in 5-2 victory against Grain Valley in the Class 3 state title tilt. Scored both goals of 2-1 victory against Liberty in district final and had game-winning goal in 2-1 state semifinal win over Union.
F: Zoe Houston, junior, Francis Howell
Chosen as the GAC South player of the year, Houston had 20 goals and 11 assists, both team highs as the Vikings fashioned a 19-3 mark, won their league title and advanced to the Class 4 quarterfinals. Verbally committed to SEMO.
M: Julia O’Neill, senior, Althoff
Signed with Marquette University. Had 14 goals and 16 assists for the Crusaders, who captured the Class 1A state championship for the first time since 2011. Scored 70 goals and provided 50 assists in three years for Althoff. An all-state selection by Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association. Also an All-Metro cross country pick.
M: Emiko Pope, senior, John Burroughs
The Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association’s Class 1 player of the year, Pope helped control the run of play as the Bombers won their first state championship since 2003. Had a match-high five shots in win over St. Michael the Archangel in the Class 1 title contest. Signed to play at MIT.
M: Leah Selm, senior, Parkway West
Signed with University of Missouri. Scored 22 goals and provided a team-best 18 assists to help Longhorns reach the Class 3 quarterfinals. Had at least one point in 17 of 20 matches. Also a cross country standout who helped West to state runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2020.
M: Madelyn Smith, senior, Alton Marquette
Signed with St. Louis University. Had 11 goals and 18 assists for the Explorers, who led before losing to eventual Class 1A state champion Althoff in the super-sectional round. Varsity player since freshman season, finished career with 30 goals and 36 assists. An all-state selection by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association.
M: Kierra Dunne, senior, Ursuline
Defensive midfielder who was named the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association’s Class 2 player of the year after helping guide the Bears to the first state championship in program history. Spearheaded team’s ascension after it won only six games during 2018 and 2019 seasons.
D: Savannah Stauffer, senior, Triad
Spearheaded a Knights’ back line that shut out 22 foes, including the last 15 in a row on the way to a 24-0-1 record and the program’s third Class 2A state championship. Also scored five goals, including a game-winner against Edwardsville, and provided six assists. All-sectional honoree by Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association. Signed with Culver-Stockton.
G: Grace Vincent, senior, O’Fallon
Posted an 18-1 record with an 0.21 goals against average as O’Fallon won the first state championship in program history, including one-goal games in last three rounds of playoffs. Recorded 15 solo shutouts, which ranked second in the area. Signed with Drury.
2021 All-Metro girls soccer third team
F: Emily Derucki, freshman, Lafayette
Scored 19 goals and handed out 15 assists as Lancers reached Class 4 sectional round. Had five game-winning goals, including the golden goal in a 3-2 district semifinal victory against Marquette.
F: Jessica Larson, junior, St. Dominic
Scored a team-high 29 goals for the Class 4 state champions before a knee injury ended her campaign in early May. Larson, who also helped Crusaders to Class 3 title in 2019, has verbally committed to Mizzou.
F: Brynn Miracle, senior, Edwardsville
A first-team all-Southwestern Conference performer, her steady play up top helped the Tigers to an 11-4 mark. Scored six goals and provided two assists as Edwardsville won a 3A regional title. Signed with Drake University.
F: Regan Wade, senior, Clayton
Scored a team-best 25 goals for the Greyhounds, who compiled a 14-9 mark and won their first district title since 2009. The Suburban Conference Green Pool offensive player of the year and a first-team all-state choice.
F: Blaine Schutte, freshman, Eureka
Leading scorer for the Suburban Conference Yellow Pool champion Wildcats with nine goals, including three game-winners. Also had three assists for Eureka, which posted a 14-3 record before falling in district final.
M: Alayna Jakul, junior, Orchard Farm
The Gateway Athletic Conference North player of the year, Jakul scored 30 goals and had a team-high 20 assists. Recorded eight multi-goal games to help Eagles capture the conference title. Verbally committed to Southeast Missouri.
M: Kasey Neidhardt, senior, Granite City
Signed with Illinois State. Helped Warriors to a 12-6-1 record with four goals and a team-high eight assists. An all-sectional pick by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association. Scored 14 goals and 13 assists in four-year career.
M: Annessa Shively, senior, Westminster
The Metro League player of the year, Shively had nine goals and five assists as the Wildcats posted an 8-7 record and won the league title. Shively, who also ran track and field in the spring, will continue her soccer career at the University of Arkansas.
D: Maddie Helling, senior, Union
Signed with Indiana State. The backbone of a Wildcats defense that posted 13 shutouts on the way to a program-best third-place finish in the Class 3 state tournament. Added 12 goals and seven assists. Also played for Union’s fourth-place finishers in 2018 and 2019.
D: Mary Gasaway, senior, Columbia
The all-state selection by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association scored seven goals and provided a team-best nine assists as Eagles reached a Class 1A regional final before falling 5-4 to eventual state champ Althoff. Helped Columbia win first state title in 2019. Signed with the University of North Dakota.
G: Addison Turken, sophomore, Parkway West
Compiled a 16-2 record and made 77 saves on the way to 13 shutouts as the Longhorns allowed just two goals over their final 13 matches. Helped Parkway West win Suburban Conference Red Pool title and finish 18-2 before falling in Class 3 quarterfinals.
In this Series
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