Ever since Shauna Johnson stepped in as head coach of the Sunrise Mountain girls soccer team, expectations have been high within the program.
The Mustangs have made the state tournament nine years out of Johnson’s first 10, a trend she doesn’t expect to end in the 2013-14 season.
“Just like every year, our team goal is to qualify for the state tournament and to do well in that tournament, have a good showing,” Johnson said after a 4-0 victory at Phoenix Goldwater on Jan. 7.
Behind the goal-scoring abilities of senior captain and center midfielder Brylee Hawkins, Sunrise Mountain is 8-2-1, including a 4-1 victory over Glendale Raymond S. Kellis.
In addition to her emotional leadership off the field, Hawkins has stepped up her game in her senior campaign to take the reins on the field.
“She’s good technically, she’s physical, she’s a good vocal player that tries to lift her team up as well and works with everybody,” Johnson said. “She is a very solid player.”
Years of hard work and dedication for Hawkins will finally pay off when she officially commits to Grand Canyon University on signing day in February. Hawkins will join a Lopes team full of Arizona natives.
Much like any incoming college freshman, Hawkins has mixed feelings about the transition.
“I’m excited but I’m nervous,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know what to expect.”
But for now, the focus remains on leading Sunrise Mountain to a state-tournament berth.
Last season’s early exit from the tournament likely still bothers the Mustangs. Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep knocked out Sunrise Mountain in the first round, rattling off three goals in overtime to win 4-1. Hawkins scored the only Mustangs goal.
Johnson is confident this year’s team has the cohesiveness to bounce back and make a deep run.
“When they think of each other as sisters, you have that bond and that connection, it makes things go a little bit easier both on the field and off the field,” Johnson said. “So, there’s really no selfish play, they’re working together, they’re looking to go forward.”