Walhalla’s McWhirt enjoys successful year as junior captain
By Alex Maminakis
WALHALLA — The midfield position in soccer is one that requires a wide skillset. To play the position well, a midfielder needs to have a good grasp of playing both offense and defense.
Walhalla’s Branch McWhirt has spent her soccer career — both in high school and with her club teams — learning to play midfield, and the rising senior has developed into one of the best in the Upstate.
“It’s kind of similar to being a quarterback in football,” McWhirt said of her position. “You have to know where everyone is on the field and where people are supposed to be, and when to play a through ball and how hard to play it. There are a lot of factors that go into it.”
As a team captain for the Razorbacks, McWhirt helped lead Walhalla to a 13-1 record and a perfect 8-0 record in Western 3A region play as the Razorbacks won the region title and advanced to the Upper State semifinals.
McWhirt scored 14 goals and had 16 assists as a junior on her way to being named the Western 3A Player of the Year.
McWhirt is The Journal’s All-Mountain Lakes Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year after her strong junior season, and head coach Adrian Resendiz knows how important McWhirt’s play was to the team’s success last season.
“She’s like the brain of the team,” the-first year head coach said. “She gave us a lot of assists, and she also was our second-highest scorer. She did a good job as a captain making the team stronger.
“She creates offense, and she can always drop back to help the defense. Midfielders have to be able to go up to help the offense and come back to help the defense. She plays a big role in the middle.”
Next spring will be McWhirt’s fourth year playing varsity for Walhalla, and she hopes to continue to build on the program’s success as the Razorbacks move up to Class 4A.
“Starting off as a freshman and coming up, I just think it’s really exciting to be a senior,” she said. “You get a lot of respect, and senior night is always really fun. It’s been really fun in the past to play with a lot of the seniors. Senior year is my last time to play, so I’m really excited for it.”
During the high school offseason, McWhirt stays active by playing for her club team, which she will do one last time this fall before going to college next year.
“This year, I wasn’t going to play club soccer just to try to enjoy my senior year and take some time off, but I decided I am going to play club again, because I started to miss it already,” she said. “I figured, going into senior year, especially if we do move up to 4A, it would really help if I did play club, just to keep my foot on the ball.”
The Razorbacks lose six seniors from last season, and McWhirt will again be a leader on a team with a lot of young talent — a role she embraces.
Despite the 13 wins Walhalla had last spring, the one loss the Razorbacks did suffer — a 2-1 loss at Woodruff to end the season — left a bad taste in the team’s mouth, and McWhirt knows the Razorbacks will come back determined next year.
“I think a lot of the girls went into that game, myself included, thinking that we could beat them just because we beat them (in 2017),” she said. “So I think going into this year, we have to work a lot harder and be a lot more serious if we want to get farther, especially in 4A.”
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