Bru­ins se­niors look­ing to ‘fin­ish strong’

Af­ter team’s first state ti­tle, Small and Bra­gaw not ready to leave with­out sec­ond one

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Glenn Gra­ham

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.


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