Rachel Jones, a junior at Collins Hill High School, poses for a portrait in Suwanee, Georgia, on May 17, 2017. Although they lost to South Forsyth in the GHSA Girls Soccer Class AAAAAAA state championships, Jones has set herself apart from the crowd and plays on the U.S. U-18 Women’s National Team as one of the top players in the nation. She has committed to the University of North Carolina and will attend when she graduates in 2018. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)
Photo: Henry P. Taylor
Photo: Henry P. Taylor

High school girls soccer player of the year

Girls Soccer Player of the Year

Rachel Jones, Collins Hill

Achievements: Jones scored 41 goals and had 11 assists for a Collins Hill team that finished 15-5-1, won the Region 6-AAAAAAA championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament. In the playoffs, she had eight goals and five assists and scored the team’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to South Forsyth that ended the Eagles’ season. Jones, who scored multiple goals in 10 matches, was a first-team all-region selection and is a finalist for the Georgia Gatorade player of the year award, which will be announced in June. Jones was a member of the Under-18 U.S. Women’s National Team that traveled to England at the beginning of the year and attended the national camp last month.

Position: Forward/midfielder

Height/Weight: 5-foot-2, 130 pounds

Class: Junior

College choice: Committed to North Carolina

Why North Carolina: Ever since I was about 4 years old, going to UNC was my dream. I saw them win countless national championships as I grew older, and that dream only grew more intense. The opportunity to be coached by Anson Dorrance, who is easily regarded as one of the best coaches of all-time, is something that I am extremely grateful and excited for.

Best high school moment: Scoring with a minute or so left in the second overtime period to beat Parkview for the first time in history. It was something that the team set as a goal from the beginning of the season, and I was so happy that I finished it off, for not only them, but coach Jeff Tinklepaugh as well. I know how badly he wanted to get that done.

Why soccer: My entire family plays soccer — siblings, cousins, uncles, everyone. I was at the soccer field 24/7 since I was basically an infant for my brother and sister’s games. I would play on the sidelines the entire game and try to simulate exactly what they were doing. I fell in love with the game at a very young age, and I still can’t get enough of it.

What you’d like to be doing in 10 years: In 10 years I hope to be playing professional soccer somewhere. My hope is that Atlanta gets an NWSL team by the time I graduate from college so that I can get drafted there. I love this city, and I would love to play professionally here one day.

Favorite high school course: My favorite high school course is definitely freshman language arts. My teacher, Mrs. Kelly Maffeo, made me love reading more than ever before, and she helped me learn how to read beyond the surface level and to find the deeper meanings in books. My appreciation for literature as a whole has never been the same since.

People who helped along the way: Everything that I’ve accomplished so far is due to the incessant support of my family and friends. My parents have been at every single game that they could and have both shaped me into the player I am today through their advice and encouragement. My brother and sister have always pushed me to want more and have both helped train me over the years. My high school team and especially my three best friends — Olivia Dedels, Lily Dougherty and Emily Shuptrine — have all been some of my biggest supporters over the years, and they and Coach T are a huge reason why I did so well this season. In January, Coach T told me that he could see me scoring 40 to 50 goals. I basically looked at him like he was crazy because I couldn’t imagine it at all. I am thankful that he set the bar so high for me because I would not have scored 41 goals this season without him pushing me. The trainers at Collins Hill, from Shelby Gaccetta and coach Ross Davis to coach Jon Miller and coach Rachel Essington, have all helped to keep me as healthy as possible throughout my high school years. All of my teachers have also been extremely beneficial by always trying to come to games, but Mrs. Maffeo in particular has helped me immensely by always making sure that I know that I am capable of whatever I want to do and that she’ll be there cheering me on through it all.

Toughest high school opponent: Playing North Gwinnett has been a battle every year so far. They always come out with a lot of energy, and we’ve only beaten them once in my high school career, so despite the rivalry, I consider them a solid team.

Favorite movie: “The Great Gatsby.”

Favorite song: “Young Dumb & Broke” by Khalid.

Worst high school moment: My worst high school moment has to be losing to South Forsyth in the elite eight this year. We all wanted to win state so badly, and I personally wanted to give my teammates a moment that they would never forget, but we fell short and lost 2-1.

If you could be any other athlete on earth: If I could be any other athlete, I would definitely be Lionel Messi. He is on a completely differently level than any other soccer player, and I would love to see what his life looks like.

Money or happiness: I would much rather have happiness than money. My family is from Jamaica, and when I go down there in the summer, I see people who have so much less than the average American that just simply love their life and appreciate it for what it is. Having all of the money in the world would not be worth giving up true happiness.

Best word to describe yourself: Ambitious.

View of the world at this moment: I think the world is in a very unique place right now. Many people want to immediately jump to the conclusion that everything is going bad and that our nation is going to ruins, but I think it’s the opposite. Every single person right now is given the perfect platform to fight for what they believe in, and it’s been so cool to me to see so many people do so lately. From the immigration ban to even things like Betsy DeVos, people are coming together in ways that I’ve only seen in history books to stand up for what they believe is right.

What you would put in a time capsule: I would put my iPad in a time capsule. It has all of the books that I’ve read over the past few years on it, and each book can tell a little bit about the person I am today.

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