Girls' Soccer Player of the Year: James Wood's McKenna Newcome

mnIn scoring a school-record 109 goals in 19 games this year, the James Wood girls’ soccer team moved the ball around the field and into the back of the net with incredible skill and chemistry, and was only twice held to fewer than three goals.

That sort of efficiency isn’t possible without someone in the middle of the field who can link the defense to the offense, and has the vision to see advantageous situations before they even develop.

Center midfielder McKenna Newcome was just a sophomore in 2022, but ever since she stepped on the field for the Colonels as a freshman she’s played with a wisdom that belies her age. The only girl in Winchester/Frederick County in the last 22 years (and maybe longer) to record at least 20 goals and 20 assists in the same season, Newcome is The Winchester Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year for her role as a sparkplug and finisher in James Wood’s high-powered attack.

“She’s a selfless player who works hard,” said James Wood coach Donavan Russell of Newcome, who recorded 21 goals (third on the team, fourth in the area) and an area-best 22 assists to help the Colonels to a school-record 16 wins. “To have her as an anchor in the middle with her amazing touch and technical ability, and looking for those passes, was huge for us. And this year, she wasn’t afraid to take tough shots. She had a lot of great goals.

“She wanted the ball at her feet late in games, in big moments in games, and wanted to find a player for a goal or have it herself. We never discourage her. She makes great decisions. We [point out] some things for her to look for. But her natural ability and the way she sees the game is just phenomenal.”

The 5-foot-6 Newcome’s play resulted in several honors this spring. She’s the Class 4 Northwestern District and Region 4C Player of the Year, and she was the only player from the C4 Northwestern to earn Virginia High School League All-State honors (Second Team).

She’s also a highly decorated player with Loudoun Soccer’s 2005 Elite Clubs National League team. This spring, She was one of just 33 players (and the only one from her team) selected to play in the U16/17 New Jersey National Selection game that was ultimately canceled due to inclement weather, and she was one of just 12 players from the Class of 2024 who was highlighted for their play by soccerwire.com at the 436-team Jefferson Cup in Richmond in March.

There’s no doubt Newcome put in the work to get to where she is now.

Since she began her travel soccer career at age 8 (she started out with Winchester United and has played for Loudoun Soccer since the fall of 2018, when she was in seventh grade), she’s mostly played midfield. She’s currently a center midfielder for both James Wood and Loudoun.

Newcome said she spends at least an hour each day doing something to improve if she doesn’t have a practice of game. If she’s not working on her ball skills at home, she’s at FASST Sports Performance Training in Winchester, where she’s gone since she was 9 or 10 years old. Newcome says she typically goes there two or three times a week in December and January, and June and July.

“They’ve really helped me grow my strength and my speed, especially recently,” Newcome said. “I’ve created a great relationship with the staff there. They’re really good people, and I really enjoy going there.”

In addition to her work ethic, Newcome’s club experiences are another big reason why she plays at such a high level for James Wood. In just this past year, she’s traveled to showcases in New Jersey, Tennessee and Florida.

“I think Loudoun has really helped me develop into the player I am,” Newcome said. “They push me every day in a competitive environment. It’s just a really high level of soccer with the ECNL. Every weekend, you’re playing one or two games and going to places like North Carolina and South Carolina. It’s really helped me refine my game.”

Even with everything Newcome does, she still stepped into an unusual situation when she came to James Wood. When the 2021 season began, she was the only freshman on a team brimming with talent. The Colonels had 10 seniors — including future NCAA Division I goalkeeper Sadie Kerns (Longwood) and three other players who would commit to college soccer — not to mention juniors like midfielder Olivia Walker (who would lead the 2021 team in assists with 18 and is headed to NCAA Division I Belmont) and forward Sidney Rathel, who would lead the team in goals with 16, one more than Walker.

“At first I was little nervous, but those seniors took me under their wing and really embraced me as a person and a player,” Newcome said. “I love all those girls so much. I still talk to some of them. They really calmed my nerves and made me feel like a part of the Colonel family.”

Newcome certainly fit in with her play. She had nine goals (third on the team) and 12 assists (second on the team and tied for second in the area) as James Wood went 12-1-2 and advanced to the Region 4C title game in 2021.

Russell — a 1993 James Wood graduate who went to school with Newcome’s parents — said he knew about Newcome when she was in middle school. Knowing Newcome’s parents and her skills, he figured she’d thrive, but actually being around her impressed him even more in 2021.

“She has real high character,” Russell said. “Just a real, ‘Yes coach” player. Always active in our preseason things. Always asking, ‘How can I help?’ As a player as a teammate, she really blended in with everyone, did her role and was very energetic and very enthusiastic. She just came in and worked very hard and improved daily.”

And as evidenced by her numbers, Newcome’s game grew a lot from 2021 to 2022. She had at least one goal or one assist in 15 of 19 games. She had seven multi-goal games (including three hat tricks) and had seven multi-assist games, including four in a 13-1 win over Liberty, three in a 5-3 overtime win against Kettle Run (Newcome scored the game-winner in that contest), and three in a 5-1 win over Handley.

This year, Russell felt like Newcome’s touch on the ball, her ability to see the field with her passes, and her ability to create space were areas in which she was better.

“This year I had to play a little bit different role than last year,” Newcome said. “Last year, I felt I was a little more higher up on the field, and this year I really had to [connect] between the defense and the offense, finding the pass and dribbling and things like that. I also felt I was little more confident in the air and a little more physical, because I’ve grown into my body.”

Newcome was pleased with how her season went, but she points out she couldn’t have accomplished what she did without her teammates. For starters, Newcome was part of arguably the most fearsome scoring foursome that Winchester/Frederick County has ever seen. Freshman forward Jolie Jenkins — a Virginia Development Academy player who was selected for an ECNL Under-15 National Selection Game in February in Texas — had 30 goals and 11 assists, Rathel had 27 goals and 18 assists, and Walker had 20 goals and 18 assists.

“My stats speak to my teammates finding me the ball, or me finding them the ball and them being in the right spot,” Newcome said. “I really like to assist my teammates. I’m a passer at heart, and I really love finding that through ball or that ball in the air to one of my teammates. That’s a really cool feeling, them scoring and going over to hug them. It’s just really been fun to play with Sidney and Olivia these past two years, and make runs with them into the playoffs like we did.”

Newcome and James Wood — which won the Northwestern regular-season title — would have loved to made a deeper postseason run this year.

There’s no question that Region 4C is the toughest region in Class 4 because of the excellence of Loudoun County schools, which have won 13 of the past 14 state titles in Class 4 or the equivalent Group AA in the three-classification system. This year, Broad Run beat Tuscarora in the state title game.

James Wood — which lost to eventual state champ Dominion in last year’s region final — fell 5-3 to Tuscarora in this year’s region semis to finish 16-3. James Wood was up 2-1 at halftime, but Newcome felt the Huskies wore the Colonels down with their speed in the second half.

Still, Newcome said it was definitely a season to be proud of after losing a lot of key seniors from 2021. The Colonels were much younger this year, with four seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen on a 16-player roster.

“We really built up our team chemistry, and I think it showed on the field,” Newcome said. “Scoring over 100 goals is crazy.

“At the end of the day, we want to make it to states. We want a state championship. But I think we proved to ourselves and to a lot of people that we can [excel] even with the young team that we had. I’m really proud of us.”

Russell can’t wait to see what’s next for the player who has already been selected as one of James Wood’s two captains for 2023.

“She’s the total package,” Russell said. “We’re a better club because she rubs off on other players. She’s humble, she plays her part, and she works with the girls well. Hopefully, she’ll add to her numbers and be a major part of our offense and defense again.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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