Haley Duca named 2021 Shelby County Player of the Year

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

CHELSEA – Fresh off surpassing former teammate Kailey Littleford for the most goals in school history seven days earlier, Chelsea senior Haley Duca stepped onto the field against Mortimer Jordan in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A playoffs looking to take it a step further.

With four goals against Westminster at Oak Mountain on April 20, she reached 93 goals to set the new scoring record for the girls and then added one more against Gardendale in a 4-1 win to open the playoffs.

But on April 27, she reached new heights when she set a school record for most goals in a game behind six made shots in a 10-0 win against Mortimer Jordan.

With those six goals, she became the first soccer player in school history (boys or girls) to reach 100 goals scored in a career.

A few days later, the Hornets ended up getting shut out against Homewood in a heartbreaking 3-0 quarterfinal loss that kept them one win shy of the Final Four.

That loss, however, didn’t take away from a special season for Chelsea and a special career from Duca as the Patriots were one of the top two teams all year, eventually losing in PKs in the state championship game.

During her senior season, Duca scored 38 goals, including several hat tricks and the remarkable final six of the season all in one game to set the new school record.

She also added 19 assists, which was one of the highest marks in the county and helped her tie for second in career assists at Chelsea with 52. That mark finishes behind her sister Lexie Duca’s remarkable 112 assists.

Those gaudy numbers this season against arguably the toughest area in the state, featuring three teams in the top four at one point this season and all three in the top six to end the season, was more than enough to make Duca the 2021 Shelby County girls soccer Player of the Year.

There were some challengers to this year’s honor with Oak Mountain’s Kierson McDonald, a sophomore, and Kaitlin Maynard, a senior, putting together one of the best defensive duos in the state.

Those two helped lead the Eagles to a Class 7A State Championship and were both right on the heels of Duca for the top award.

In addition to them Indian Springs’ Norah Roller, who had a jaw-dropping 55 goals to lead the county, received strong consideration as did Pelham’s Kori Ingram and Helena’s Taylor Davis.

But Duca scored 44 percent of her team’s 87 goals this season and earned the praise during her final year with the Hornets.

Each team Chelsea played knew she would be the focal point of the offense, but teams still couldn’t find a way to keep her from hurting them.

The Auburn signee etched her name in the history books in her time with the Hornets and did the same in the county, earning three consecutive All-County First Team nods following this season.

She’ll now join former county player and Oak Mountain star Hailey Whitaker on the Tigers’ roster looking to continue making plays at the next level.