News-Star: Sports

Ms. Soccer Bella Iorio leads JUSA All-County selections

Members of the Johnston United Soccer Association Girls All-County Team selections for 2015 are o(front row, from left) Amanda Eckard (Corinth Holders), Alexis Ayers (Corinth Holders), Bella Iorio (Corinth Holders), Morgan Townsend (North Johnston), Everett Biggs (Clayton), Natalie Sabistan (Smithfield-Selma), (back row) Madison Covey (West Johnston), Robin Pollard (West Johnston), Kassandra Valasquez (Princeton), Jessica Brush (Princeton), Chelsea Hawley (Princeton) and Logan Haag (Clayton). Team membersKayli Watson (Clayton) and Rachel Witkin (Corinth Holders) are not pictured.
Members of the Johnston United Soccer Association Girls All-County Team selections for 2015 are o(front row, from left) Amanda Eckard (Corinth Holders), Alexis Ayers (Corinth Holders), Bella Iorio (Corinth Holders), Morgan Townsend (North Johnston), Everett Biggs (Clayton), Natalie Sabistan (Smithfield-Selma), (back row) Madison Covey (West Johnston), Robin Pollard (West Johnston), Kassandra Valasquez (Princeton), Jessica Brush (Princeton), Chelsea Hawley (Princeton) and Logan Haag (Clayton). Team membersKayli Watson (Clayton) and Rachel Witkin (Corinth Holders) are not pictured.

For the past four years, Bella Iorio has been the unquestioned leader for a young Corinth Holders girls soccer program and has helped lead the Pirates to a 51-18 mark over that span. After Iorio’s senior campaign, one that saw her score 20 goals and total 11 assists en route to the first Two Rivers Conference title for Corinth Holders, the midfielder has been named recipient of the Johnston United Soccer Association (JUSA) Ms. Soccer Award.

Iorio led her team to a 15-1 record this season and spearheaded the Pirates’ undefeated march through conference play. The midfielder was named Offensive Player of the Year in the Two Rivers as well as being named to the all-region and all-state teams.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to have coached her and I wish her the best in the years to come,” Corinth Holders coach Alison Vetterl said.

Iorio finished her career with 57 goals and 47 assists and recently represented the East team in the North Carolina East-West All-Star game in Greensboro, North Carolina. Iorio is already playing soccer at UNC-Asheville and scored in her first collegiate match. She was also selected as one of 18 graduated seniors to represent North Carolina in the Clash of the Carolinas, an all-star game against South Carolina.

Iorio talked to sports editor D. Clay Best about the award, her playing career at Corinth Holders and what the future holds.

Q: What does it mean to you to win an award like this?

A: It is such an honor to receive the Ms. Soccer award and it just solidifies all my hard work for the past four years. It means so much to me that other people can see that soccer is a huge part of my life. Being selected to play in the Clash of the Carolinas and the East/West All-Star games this summer only made me more excited to join UNC Asheville’s soccer team in the fall. It was so incredible to receive the Ms. Soccer award as I took the next step in my soccer career. Being Ms. Soccer is the icing on the cake as I finished my fantastic high school career and embarked forward as a Division 1 college soccer player, which has been a lifelong dream of mine.

Q: How did your teammates help you have such a great season?

A: I have to say the team I played with this season for Corinth Holders has been the best team yet. We were a young team and had a ton of talent. All of us bonded instantly and always had fun on and off the field, which is important for on-the-field communication and only made us stronger. My teammates made my senior year so special and I thank them all for an amazing season.

Q: What was it like to be a part of an unbeaten team in your senior season?

A: I am so proud of each and every single one of my teammates. We all work so hard and it was one of our goals for the season to come out undefeated conference champs. We had a great season of encouraging one another to always be the best player we could be. Our team would have never had this amazing season without Coach V. She never stopped believing in us and always pushed us to work harder than we ever thought we could.

Q: Is there some part of your game that you felt stood out above others this past high school season? What was it?

A: During my years playing for Corinth Holders we had never beaten Cleveland’s soccer team. I knew going into my senior year with our talent that we could hopefully come out with a win. I remember, my teammate and co-captain, Allie O’Hara, and I told all of the girls to show up thirty minutes early to the game so we could pump everyone up and focus on getting a win. When we beat Cleveland at home it was the best feeling in the whole world. That victory in particular really showed our growth and strength as a team from previous years and walking away with a win will always be one of my fondest high school memories.

Q: Do you have a specific plan for the scholarship money that came with the award? IE have you said “I’m going to use this for ‘X’ college expense?”

A: Thanks to the aid of the scholarship money, I was able to buy all my textbooks for my upcoming semester at UNC Asheville. Thank you for the help to all my college expenses. Thank you to everyone who made Ms. Soccer possible for me. I am so lucky to have had such a supportive high school team and incredible family that help me reach all my goals.

The 2015 JUSA Girls High School All-County Team


Alexis Ayers (Corinth Holders): Often assigned to man-mark opposing teams’ best players, the freshman defender didn’t disappoint and played a big role in the Pirates’ defensive dominance. Her versatility and ability to play different positions was a huge plus for her team.

Amanda Eckard (Corinth Holders): Named Defensive Player of the Year in the Two Rivers, Eckard was the leader in the back for the Pirates. Was strong in the air but her ability to tackle the ball and win 50-50 battles to regain possession for her team was invaluable.

Morgan Townsend (North Johnston): Named to the all-region team, Townsend was the strong defensive presence in the middle the Panthers needed in the back. Served as a great initiator of North Johnston’s attack, often springing her forwards free on long balls over the top, leading to six assists.

Kayli Watson (Clayton): Started as central defender for Clayton all four years and was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Greater Neuse River Conference as a senior. Anchored the Comets defense that allowed just five goals in conference play and, although aggressive in winning the ball, never received a yellow card in her career.


Everett Biggs (Clayton): Junior paced the Comets with 19 goals and 17 assists, both third best in the GNRC. The consistent offensive weapon tallied a goal or assist in 16 games last season, leading Clayton to a conference title.

Chelsea Hawley (Princeton): Power and athleticism led to a stellar 23-goal, 27-assist campaign for Hawley. The junior demonstrated the ability to hit the target from distance and her confidence on the ball and knack at holding off defenders helped fuel the Bulldogs attack.

Robin Pollard (West Johnston): Finished second in the state in goals scored with an astounding total of 58. Despite getting a lot of attention from opposing coaches and defenses, Pollard often would maneuver her way past multiple defenders on her penetrating runs towards goal.

Natalie Sabiston (Smithfield-Selma): Freshman was the top goal scorer in the competitive Two Rivers 3A Conference netting 24 goals, nine coming against Johnston County opponents. Sabiston also created for her teammates with nine assists and was named SSS Offensive Player of the Year.


Jessica Brush (Princeton): Ended season in third place in the state with 33 assists to go along with 16 goals. Responsible for pinning opposing teams in their defensive third, Brush directed the prolific Bulldogs attack with accurate passing and good field awareness.

Madison Covey (West Johnston): Held down the center mid position superbly for the Wildcats, finishing the season with seven goals and 19 assists. Her passing skills were only matched by her ability to shield the ball from defenders, as she was a key component to a club that went 11-3 in the GNRC.

Bella Iorio (Corinth Holders): Was the heart and soul of the Pirates’ Two Rivers 3A Conference title, ending the season with 20 goals and 11 assists. Her ability to control the midfield and be her squad’s vocal leader helped Corinth Holders to a 15-1 overall record.

Kassandra Velasquez (Princeton): Toyed with defenders with her brilliant ball control and was virtually impossible to dispossess as she racked up 24 goals and 11 assists. Great at transitioning to defense when her team lost the ball and was a dependable tackler.


Logan Haag (Clayton): Posted nine shutouts and allowed just three goals in conference play. Was fearless in coming off her line in breakaway situations and good at parrying away crosses sent into the 18-yard box.

Rachel Witkin (Corinth Holders): Totaled 56 saves in 15 games and helped the Pirates concede just four goals in conference play and only eight in total for the season. A two-year starter, Witkin improved on her ability to become a vocal leader and help her back line maintain its defensive shape.

Honorable Mention

Mackenzie Barber (West Johnston) Defender, Summer Mitchell (Corinth Holders) Midfielder, Allie O’Hara (Corinth Holders) Forward, Sam Richardson (North Johnston) Forward, McKenzie Smale (Princeton), efender, Carolina Solis (Corinth Holders) Forward, Hannah Stephenson (West Johnston) Goalie, Jenna Woodard (Princeton) Defender

D. Clay Best: 919-524-8895, @dclaybest