Sports

Girls Soccer Toast of the Coast: Waccamaw's Player excelled under pressure

Even the pressure associated with high expectations couldn't stop Taylor Player.

The Waccamaw girls soccer team's star forward outran, outplayed and outscored nearly every opponent she faced during her senior year. It was that type of domination that earned Player her second consecutive The Sun News' Toast of the Coast Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

In a season in which nearly every opponent looked for ways to double- and even triple-team Player, all she did was score 42 goals and tally 20 assists for the South Carolina Class A/AA state champion Warriors.

"There were a couple games where they'd slow her down and she'd get frustrated," Waccamaw coach Brian Brennan said. "They can keep her boxed in for a little bit. But against the good teams, she liked that. She appreciated the challenge."

Player excelled when all eyes were on her.

Take an April 15 game against Mowat, Canada, for instance. That was Player's first opportunity to reach the 100-goal plateau for her career, a first in Waccamaw program history.

She accomplished the milestone all of 2 minutes into the game. Player then went on to add three more goals before the contest was over.

Brennan did his best to keep the century mark talk under wraps in an effort to prevent any undue stress. But Player found out about it three days before the game.

It mattered little, as did any pressure of being the best player on one of the state's best teams this season.

Somehow, despite everything she accomplished during her first three years at Waccamaw, she was able to avoid the talk that circulated around the best player in the area.

"I didn't want what people expected of me stopping me from doing my best," Player said. "I never really ever felt pressure, except from myself. My parents, they don't get after me. They know I try my best with soccer."

In other words, she set out to have fun, and it culminated with a win over Christ Church in the state championship game last week.

That game - in which Player scored three goals - held a surprising meaning for the senior. In addition to playing her final high school match, she was also potentially ending her competitive soccer career.

"I'm extremely proud of myself," she said. "I might not go play in college. This could be my last game. Not having soccer in my life anymore, this could be weird. But I'm very proud of what I did."

She has offers from several schools, including College of Charleston and South Carolina. Saying she "didn't want to rush into a decision," though, she's enrolling at Trident Technical College in Charleston, at least for one semester. After that, she'll decide how much, if at all, she misses the game. If she decides to return to soccer, she plans to walk on at one of the aforementioned schools.

Either path she takes, it will include a memorable senior year at Waccamaw.

"She had the best season of her life," Brennan said. "There's people who would be happy with a career of what she did this year alone."

"I've coached for a long time. She's probably the best athlete I've coached in my life. She's a human highlight reel."

Taylor Player

Girls Soccer Player of the Year

School

| Waccamaw

Position

| Forward

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Compiled 42 goals and 20 assists this season; one of five finalists for A-AA player of the year; four-time All-State selection; Named to the South team in the North-South Classic in June 19

The team

Chandler Murphy

School

| Waccamaw

Position

| Forward

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Had 27 goals and 18 assists this season; All-State selection as a junior and senior; Named to the South Carolina team in the Clash of the Carolinas in July; will play at Wingate next year

Ragan Cote

School

| Myrtle Beach

Position

| Forward

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Had 18 goals and nine assists on season; Region VII-AAA Player of the Year

Ana Sigmon

School

| St. James

Position

| Forward

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Had 17 goals and 16 assists despite missing seven games due to injury; will play at Coastal Carolina next season

Jessica Durant

School

| Conway

Position

| Forward

Class

| Junior

Notable

| Had 15 goals and 6 assists for the Tigers this season

Katie Rastello

School

| Waccamaw

Position

| Midfield

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Had two goals and 19 assists this season; will play at Belmont Abbey next year

Julianna Zio

School

| West Brunswick (N.C.)

Position

| Midfield

Class

| Sophomore

Notable

| Had 18 goals and 5 assists for the Trojans

Haley Lundquist

School

| St. James

Position

| Midfield

Class

| Sophomore

Notable

| Had 18 goals and 7 assists including five game-winning goals; First team All-Region VII-AAA selection

Candler Smith

School

| Waccamaw

Position

| Defender

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Had 3 goals and 3 assists this season; All-State selection junior and senior seasons

Corinne O'Dea

School

| Myrtle Beach

Position

| Defender

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Had five goals and 1 assist; First team All-Region VII-AAA; selected to North-South All-Star game but unable to attend game

Emily Sapochak

School

| Myrtle Beach

Position

| Defender

Class

| Junior

Notable

| Had four goals on season; First team All-Region VII-AAA selection

Andee Dees

School

| North Myrtle Beach

Position

| Goalkeeper

Class

| Senior

Notable

| Made 122 saves on season with 10 shutouts; First team All-Region VII-AAA selection; Voted top defender in Region VII-AAA

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