STAUNTON — On the heels of the state championship in boys soccer by Robert E. Lee High School, graduated senior Kyle Stenzel and Coach Homes Tehrani were selected Class 2 Player and Coach of the Year respectively by the Virginia High School League.
The awards came after the Leemen defeated defending champion George Mason, 2-0, last Saturday at Radford University for the state title.
Stenzel, who will be attending and playing soccer next fall for Virginia Tech, was joined by five other Lee seniors on the All-State first team.
Marcos Sasia, who will be attending Mary Baldwin University in the fall and playing soccer, scored 34 total goals and had 22 assists.
Also, forward Thomas Otteni (24 goals, 12 assists), midfielder Cooper Yurish (three goals, seven assists) and defenders Lucas Gaines (1 goal and four assists) and Isaiah Knopp (six goals, five assists) made the first team for Lee.
Another graduate of the class of 2019, Carson Murray, scored 17 goals with 27 assists. Murray intends to play soccer in the fall at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Stenzel, despite missing several games this season due to injury, came back with a vengeance to lead the Leemen in scoring with 39 goals and 19 assists from his attacking midfield position.
"Kyle has great vision on the field and the capacity of a lot of skills," Tehrani said. "He's a dream player to have, he makes great runs without the ball and is a quiet person that is open to all suggestions."
Stenzel began his soccer career as a defender, but became more and more valuable as a scoring threat and moved up the field in position as his high school career progressed, moving first into a defensive midfield spot and then further forward as an attacking midfielder.
After his injury this season, Stenzel came on strong, scoring eight goals in three regional games and six more in state playoffs. In the championship match, he assisted on Marcos Sasia's goal and later scored himself on a penalty kick.
"He's very calm and even as a young player, the kids started looking up to him," Tehrani said.
Stenzel said that he and his talented teammates began to realize that they had state title potential when they were sophomores.
Tehrani and his coaching staff saw it even earlier.
"We knew that by their senior year these guys were gonna be awesome," Tehrani said.
The Leemen made it into the state playoffs when this year's seniors were freshmen and sophomores, and last season Lee entered the state semifinals undefeated. But a disappointing loss to George Mason dashed the Leemen's hopes for a state championship.
It appeared that Mason might repeat after the Mustangs gave Lee its first loss this season also, this time coming in the Region 2B Tournament championship, defeating the Leemen 1-0 in Falls Church.
"The loss to George Mason kinda helped us," Stenzel said. "We made the adjustments."
But the two soccer powerhouses were on a collision course as Lee escaped with a 4-3 win in Richmond over Maggie Walker in the first round of state play and then rolled over Giles County 7-1 in the state semifinals.
Against Maggie Walker, the Leemen stormed out to a 3-0 lead, only to see the Dragons storm back and tie the match. It took a late goal to keep the Leemen title-bound.
"That Maggie Walker game was a crazy game," Tehrani said. "It set the tone for us."
Meanwhile, George Mason was taking care of business, winning their two state playoff games to set up last Saturday's rain-drenched title game with Lee.
"We looked at the tape of the regional game, made some corrections and I told them the night before that if you play against George Mason the way you played today (against Giles), you're gonna win state," Tehrani said.
Over the last two seasons, the Leemen are 47-2, the only two losses coming against George Mason.
"We finally got that monkey off our backs," Tehrani said.
Stenzel will now try to build on his high school experience when he takes his game to the next level for the Hokies in soccer-crazy, ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
"It was a really cool experience," Stenzel said. "These guys are my best friends and it was something really special."
Tehrani took over the Lee program six seasons ago after coaching at Riverheads.
With 11 seniors from this team graduated, Tehrani will try to reload for 2020. "We have some talented players coming back and some new ones coming," Tehrani said. "It will be challenging, but we should be competitive."
"Coach Tehrani helped the whole team learn to play for each other," Stenzel said. "He practiced with a plan and he was a really cool coach to have; he really cares about us."
Stenzel heads to Blacksburg on July 7 to begin summer classes and begin training for the upcoming soccer season at Virginia Tech.
"My goal is to be a good member of the team and to get some playing time," Stenzel said.
The 2019 championship is the culmination of a successful coaching career for Tehrani, who guided the Leemen to the top after nearly doing so with Riverheads.
"I wanted to dedicate this season to Mike Dattilio (former assistant coach at Riverheads) and his family," Tehrani said.
Dattilio died during a season that he and Tehrani were coaching the Gladiators.
"Mike was a great influence on me and helped me tremendously," Tehrani said. "It was a great soccer community (at Riverheads) and whenever I remember this season, I'll think about Mike."