MORGANTOWN — It truly takes a village in order to win a state championship, let alone defend that title the following season. But among those villagers emerges the leader of the group that everyone can rally around when the time calls.
The Morgantown girls soccer team did just that, capturing its second consecutive Class AAA state championship behind senior Gracie Brown, the West Virginia Sports Writers Association’s Player of the Year for the second straight campaign.
The captain of the Mohigans scored 26 goals and provided nine assists during the regular season, and scored the equalizing goal in the semifinal match against Hedgesville in the state tournament. She played a pivotal part in the championship match as well, as MHS controlled nearly two-thirds of the possession on offense with the help of the midfield.
“We all knew it would be a challenge coming into this season with some low numbers initially and a new coach coming in,” Brown said. “We lost nine seniors and that’s a lot to lose but as we progressed through the season we knew more and more that we could go all the way and we all worked as hard as we could, individually and as a team, to get there and it paid off.”
MHS listed only 13 players, 11 starters and two reserves, for the first day of the season, meaning fatigue playing a big factor in the approach to the game. That number grew slightly throughout the year and eventually the Mohigans had 16 total players on the team.
Brown says while always optimistic about their ability and where they were as a team, she and her teammates kept coming together more and more each match and each practice.
“We always believed in ourselves from the beginning,” she said. “I think the team connection and chemistry started coming together early and that became stronger every week.”
First-year head coach Bri Frontuto praised Brown for not only the work she did on the field for her team but everything off the field that she did as a leader.
“Gracie has been a valuable player her entire career on the field but what people do not see is her leadership off of the field,” Frontuto said. “Her knowledge of the game and ability to keep the team moving forward and cohesive was incredible and I will miss how hard she works and her energy in practice and games. It’s hard to put into words as a first-year coach just how important she has been to the program overall, but I know the legacy Gracie is leaving for them is one they will want to build on.”
Brown signed with Auburn on November 8, following in the footsteps of her sister, Sammie Brown, who also played for the Tigers from 2019-2023.
Gracie is the middle daughter of Joe Brown and WVU women’s soccer head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, who is in her 29th season with the Mountaineers.
“The level of soccer that usually comes from high school is often looked down on, especially in this state,” Brown said. “But I think it had helped me tremendously to get an idea of what I need to do at the next level and that I will always need to work hard to be where I want to be.”
Other players considered were Charleston Catholic forward Molly Messer and midfielder Mia Lough, Philip Barbour midfielder/forwards Arrington Sparks and Braylyn Sparks, Point Pleasant goalkeeper Katie McCutcheon and Weir forward Olivia Baker.
Brown will be recognized at the 77th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 5, 2024 at River City in Wheeling.