Bruins seniors looking to ‘finish strong’
After team’s first state title, Small and Bragaw not ready to leave without second one
That feeling is back for Broadneck girls soccer stars Hailey Small and Maddie Bragaw.
It’s a mixed bag that comes around only this time of the year: plenty of anticipation, some nerves, but most of all, excitement.
As four-year starters, the beginning of another playoff run is old hat to them. But this season, their last and Broadneck’s first as defending Class 4A state champion, emotions are cranked up higher.
After earning an opening-round bye in the East Region’s District II, the No. 13 Bruins (11-2-1) are hosting Anne Arundel County rival Severna Park tonight. For the two captains, the 7 p.m. kickoff can’t come soon enough.
“It’s exciting going into playoffs. The whole season is basically exciting, but there’s an entirely different feel at practice and the games just knowing it could be your last,” Bragaw said.
“Every year, we’ve always wanted to finish strong, and last year, we won the state championship. But this year being my senior year and knowing this will be my last INSIDE McDonogh, Calvert Hall win MIAA quarterfinals
time playing … it’s just an awesome feeling. There’s a lot of hope we can win states again and I can finish strong.”
Small is a two-time All-Metro first-team pick who has played all over the field in her four seasons, mostly in the back, where she can take away a portion of the field and make runs to ignite the offense. She’s a physical presence who also has a dangerous long throw that has resulted in five assists this season. She has13 goals and 22 assists in her career.
Bragaw, an All-Metro second-team pick last season at midfield, brings her skills and end-to-end intensity to games. It’s common to see her attacking deep in the offensive third one minute and tracking back to defend the next. She also has played multiple positions and mostly has been used as a defensive midfielder this season. With her four goals and three assists this fall, she has 21 and 13, respectively, for her career.
Most of the time, Small and Bragaw have been the only seniors in the team’s starting lineup, and their presence is a comfort for the younger Bruins. The same goes for coach John Camm.
“It’s great because they know what to expect, know how the game is played, and even when the team is not playing its best, they have the ability to ride it out and rise to the occasion,” he said.
“With those two playing at such a high level in high school for four years and club ball, and then having all the younger kids with the club experience, they just help bring everything together. So no matter what’s happening on the field, nobody is hanging their heads, nobody is worrying about what’s happening and everyone stays focused on the next play.”
The Bruins had formidable teams in the duo’s first two seasons but were unable to get out of the challenging East Region.
Last season, they had their long-awaited breakthrough. After edging defending region champ South River in penalty kicks, they knocked off Arundel to win their second region crown and first since 1998.
Broadneck had two shutouts in the state tournament, beating Churchill in the semifinals before then-senior Bri Harris scored in overtime against Leonardtown for a 1-0 win and the program’s first championship.
“With all the hard work we put in, it was really worth it,” Small said. “The moment that we won, I was so happy that I wanted to cry, but I was so happy, I just couldn’t cry. That kind of explains just how great it felt.”
The pair was quick to credit last year’s seniors for the monumental season. They understand it takes hard work every day and the desire to get better each time they play together, in practice and in games. Last season, anytime things got off track, the seniors would bring the team together. One word — “states” — was all it took to refocus.
Small and Bragaw cherish the responsibility of being team leaders. In addition to their game-changing skills, they are fiercely competitive and bring the invaluable experience that comes with playing varsity for four years.
“Hailey and Maddie are two unbelievable soccer players that have really impacted me as a player and person, and I’m sure that’s translated to every person on Broadneck soccer,” sophomore midfielder Bruins captains Hailey Small, left, and Maddie Bragaw are determined to win the state championship again this year. “We have to have that mindset that we can win,” Small said. Talia Gabarra said.
“Hailey, to start with, it’s obvious what a great soccer player she is. Her technical skills and awareness just extends to everybody she plays with, and she really is one of those players that makes everyone around her better.
“Maddie has this unbelievable work ethic. She will come early and stay after practice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Maddie acting like she doesn’t want to be there, and I don’t think I ever will. She just has so much passion for soccer, and it spreads to everyone around her.”
Small and Bragaw’s relationship goes back to elementary school. Soccer is something they always have shared, but last year’s state title win is their top highlight to date.
Bragaw recalls being next to Harris when she scored the deciding goal. “She just looked at me and said: ‘Oh, my gosh,
“But this year being my senior year … it’s just an awesome feeling. There’s a lot of hope we can win states again.”
Maddie, we just won states!’ ”
And then there was the joyous bus ride back to Broadneck: “I never heard a bus so loud. It was amazing,” Bragaw said.
Now the two standouts are determined to experience another joyride on this season’s last day. It won’t be easy. The region is loaded, with No. 5 South River and No. 7 Arundel, among others, once again in the way should the Bruins get past always tough Severna Park. But Broadneck’s seniors already know what it takes.
“It’s going to take everything,” Small said. “I know the girls on this team, and I know that we want it. We can’t take days off, no plays off, and I think that we’ve been doing well. It’s just going to come down to every day, and we have to have that mindset that we can win.”
Broadneck, along with Hailey Small, left, and Maddie Bragaw, will face Anne Arundel County rival Severna Park tonight.