OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAYER: SARA KAST
• School: Bullard
• Grade/position: Senior/fullback
• The résumé: In a rare selection for a defender, Kast was voted the County/Metro Athletic Conference MVP, an award that typically goes to goal-scoring forwards or play-making midfielders. Kast was the leading defender on a team that went 10-0 in the CMAC and 21-6-1 overall while reaching the Central Section Division I final. Kast, who took Bullard's free kicks and penalty kicks, finished with three goals and one assist.
• Stepping up: Kast wasn't slated to be Bullard's center fullback, but a season-ending injury to Breanna Kriss 13 games in forced a switch. The Knights allowed nine goals the rest of the way while going 13-2, their season ending with a last-minute, 2-1 loss to Buchanan in the D-I final. "When things could have broken down, that's when she stepped up and became a leader of our team," Bullard coach Onesta Francis said. "It was funny it took some hardship for her to show what she was capable of because she always had the talent."
• Perfect mix: Kast brought toughness, recording a school-record 85 tackles for a defense that allowed 25 goals in 28 games while posting 11 shutouts. With experience as a forward and a midfielder, she also brought much-needed ball-handling skills to the backline. "When we needed to play possession, she was so calm it allowed her to make better decisions," Francis said. "We had to play keepaway and slow the game down at times. When you have someone in the backline to pass to, you can make the other team get out of position."
• Stating her case: Francis said Kast was a quiet leader for the most part, setting an example with her play. The major exception came at halftime of the section semifinals, when Bullard trailed 1-0 against Clovis North. Francis said many of the Knights looked nervous and doubted their ability to come back before Kast made an uncommon address to the team. "She came in and said 'Hey, right now we're playing like a bunch of individuals. We're better than that. We can win this game, but only if we play for each other,' " Francis said. "Since she's not always a big talker, when she did say something, everyone listened."
• He said it: "The way she plays is much more elegant than any other defender or backline player. She can stroke the ball. She's more comfortable with the ball at her feet than any of the other backline players I saw this year." -- Francis.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6103, firstname.lastname@example.org or @NickG_FB on Twitter.