Fabulous Freshmen


Kathleen Ortiz

A number of freshmen on the winter sports teams have made an early impact in competition. Some of the freshmen on the basketball, soccer, golf and swim teams are pictured above. Front Row: Carlie Solomon, Emma Yeager, Grace Byrd, Abigail Hunt, Matti McDaniel. Back Row: Camille Blair, Biva Byrd, Reagan Reville, Kaitlyn Neel, Nora Critzer, Taylor Netherly, Renee Alcala.

Kathleen Ortiz, Photography Editor

   Traditionally, successful teams lean on their veterans to lead them. This year, however, Kingwood Park’s girls teams are getting huge boosts from superstar freshmen.

   Freshmen have made major impacts this winter for the basketball, golf, soccer, wrestling and swim teams.

   Emma Yaeger leads the district in goals for the soccer team, which has been a state finalist the past two seasons.

  Isabella Saenz has already finished second overall in a golf tournament this winter. She hopes to hoist a state championship trophy for Kingwood Park, just as her sister Ariana did in 2014 and 2015.

   Carlie Solomon will be the first of the freshmen to make a State Meet appearance next weekend at the 5A State Swimming and Diving Championships in Austin.

We have a really athletic class when it comes to girls sports, and we’re all really diverse in which sports we play.

— Emma Yeager, freshman

    Yeager knew this would be a special freshman class when she was at Kingwood Middle School.

   “We have a really athletic class when it comes to girls sports, and we’re all really diverse in which sports we play,” said Yeager, a starting forward for the soccer team.

   Yeager’s success extends far beyond Kingwood Park’s soccer field. She missed the two weeks before finals in December to attend a National Identification Camp in California and an international soccer tournament in Florida.

   Although she had to make up nine tests after she returned from her soccer trip in December, Yeager appreciates being the only freshman on the varsity soccer team.

   “There’s a lot of praise that comes with it,” Yeager said. “Our three captains – Brooke Baldon, Leah Hoyt and Brianna Fuhre – have helped me the most. They just kind of direct me and guide me through things.”

   Solomon, who won four gold medals at the District Championships, was one of two Kingwood Park swimmers to be named “Swimmer of the Meet” on Jan. 18. She followed that with a strong performance at the Regional Championships to qualify for the UIL State Meet.

   “The upperclassmen have encouraged me a lot, like through hard sets and stuff like that,” Solomon said. “And also they’re really nice. They include the freshmen.”

   Solomon swims about 24 hours each week between her school practices and Blue Tide Aquatics. She hopes to reach the state meet all four years of high school and then swim at the Division I level in college.

   “Carlie has had a great year and a great postseason,” said girls swim coach John Dissinger, who had a number of freshmen on varsity this year. “The [freshmen are all] aggressive, and I’ll say they don’t act like freshmen. They’re not scared to go after their goals or try to be on relays.”

   Saenz is no different on the golf course. She hopes to become one of the top amateurs in the world and to reach the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. Although Saenz, Solomon and Yeager are all working toward similar goals, they aren’t very close with each other.

   “I think because we have so much practice every day after school it’s kind of hard for us to hang out and stuff like that,” Saenz said. “We’re always doing stuff on the weekends. We spend a lot of time doing the sport that we play.”

   Freshmen Biva Byrd and Matti McDaniel play varsity basketball. They played basketball at Kingwood Middle School with Yeager. They lean on each other when upperclassmen don’t understand what they’re going through.

   “It’s kind of cool because you know what they’re going through too, so you’re there if they ever need someone to talk to,” Yeager said. “Sometimes you don’t really have anyone to talk to on the teams.”

   Along with all the hours they put into their sports, they also fit in all their homework. Yeager plays soccer 14 ½ hours a week. She is also enrolled in four Pre-AP/AP classes.

   “You just gotta make sure you pay attention in classes and know when things are due and then either do them before, after, or on the way to practices and games,” Yeager said.

      The freshmen are just beginning their high school journey and still have three and a half years left to make an impact both in their sports and academically. Their coaches are excited to see what’s still ahead for each of them.

    “They’re already really good as freshmen,” Dissinger said. “They’re going to continue to develop and become even better players as they get more comfortable.”