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A physical presence

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union (@GMSPhotoWNY) Soccer is more than just kicking the ball back and forth. It is more than just making a few passes and hoping to score a goal. Soccer is about technique, and strength. To be a great player on the pitch, you need have a fierce competitive edge. If you have been able to catch a few games this year of Mount Mercy Academy you would see they had a very physical back line. One of those players leading the physical play was junior back Brenna Berhalter. Playing in the midfield the past couple of seasons, Berhalter made the switch back to the position she knows best. And, it showed in spades. In their semifinal playoff win over Buffalo Seminary, Berhalter was not backing down to the physical play that was coming her way.

“When playing a game, I have to be all in. Soccer is much more than just kicking a ball. It is very important to have strength in order to stand your ground,” stated Berhalter. “I always want to end games knowing I did everything in my power to fight for that ball. I am not afraid to use my body to stop the ball, and to protect my team.”

Protecting her team is something Berhalter has been doing all season long. Along with senior Maddie Edwards, sophomore Jenna Brown and junior Emma Connors, the back four was a strong suit for the Magic all season long. Edwards has been through the wars for the past four seasons - and she has been able to bring along players like Berhalter. In fact, Berhalter loves how Edwards plays the game - and the way she can get the rest of the team in the right positions. “Maddie Edwards is someone I look up to constantly as a defensive player,” stated Berhalter. “She helps with directions and where to turn, while playing on the sides. We both have our sides that we work best on, so it's great for both of us.” Berhalter figured she would need a refresher course when moving back to the defensive side. She played midfield for a coupe of years - but you could tell that wasn’t her natural position. Even in the midfield, Berhalter would always concentrate on defense first. That type of mentality helped her when she had to make the easy transition. “I've always known I am more of a defensive player. Defense has always been my favorite position to play. For a while I used my defensive skills up the field. It was an extremely easy transition as well as a more comfortable transition to move to the back,” stated Berhalter. “Some of the biggest things I needed to learn moving to the back was how important communication is, and how important moving is. My line and I have always have each other's back and know how to cover each other’s positions when needed. We always talk to know who is gonna me more up and who will stay more back.”

Her play was one of the many reasons why the Magic made it to the Monsignor Martin Class B finals against a very good Mount. St. Mary Academy team. While the ending was a little strange, the Magic still were crowned co-champions. Because teams in Class B don’t go on to play in the Catholic State tournament. The finals between MSM and Mt. Mercy ended in a 2-2 draw. It’s not exactly the way Mt. Mercy wanted to win their first title, but a title is a title. “Although, it would have been incredible to win it fully, it is such an honorable and memorable moment in all of our soccer careers. I'm so proud of the team this year. The bonds we've all grown together has made the game come so naturally to us. We all worked so hard this year, and this achievement proves it. It was very well-earned,” stated Berhalter. “I have never been a part of a championship game where it ended in a tie. I really don’t understand it. I'm so used to penalty kicks being the main tie-breaker, so it was extremely shocking. I know it would have felt a lot better to win completely. It took our team a while to come to terms with how the game played out.” Her play on the pitch was noticed by everyone as Berhalter was named a second team All-Catholic. It is a great accomplishment for the junior , but something that she won’t rest on. Berhalter is already is getting ready for her offseason where she is looking to improve in all aspects of her game - on and off the pitch. That includes the simple things like continuing to eat healthy and ramming up her offseason programs - before the travel season starts in the spring. “In order to have a great senior year, I will just continue to do what I’ve always done during the offseason, but more intensely. Continuing to work my body daily, eat nutritiously as well as running frequently will definitely help increase my game,” stated Berhalter. “Staying healthy is crucial while playing a sport. I've learned it's extremely important to make sure all your muscles are taken care of before and after a game. Really going in depth and stretching every part of my body as well as icing after a game has helped tremendously. It's better to be safe than sorry so wearing any braces that you know will help me stay away from injury is helpful.” Berhalter also knows that next season she will have to take a bigger leap in the leadership role for her team if they want to get back to the championship game. With the loss of Maddie Edwards, along with two others seniors, Berhalter will be expected to continue to lead a very young group.

A young group that is eager to learn - and eager to get back to the title game - this time trying to win it outright. “I appreciate being referred to as a leader. Having the sense of nervousness and anxiety being completely taken away has made me more open to my teammates and communicating with them as well as growing relationships with them. I love cheering on my teammates for a great play they made, etc,” stated Berhalter. “With growing up and maturing throughout my years at Mercy, I have naturally developed leadership skills. Leadership to me entails not caring what others think, as long as you're doing the right things, and especially doing the right things for myself.”

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