Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — A year ago, after losing both of its head coaches and an uber-talented senior class, Unioto’s girls soccer program wasn’t sure where it could turn for leadership.
But midway through last season, rather quietly, Brandy Robinson seemed to assume that role.
Down the stretch, Robinson carried her teammates to a Division II district semifinal appearance and the program’s third straight sectional championship. However, the Shermans failed to reach a regional semifinal after claiming back-to-back district championships in 2017 and 2018.
So when you ask Robinson what her goals are as a senior this fall, the question answers itself.
“Something I’ve really liked that [Unioto coach] Jeremy [Clark] has done this season is have each and every one of us lay out our personal and team goals in front of everyone,” Robinson said. “Personally, my ambitions are to score more goals than last season, and to be a good leader on the field. As a team, my hope is that we can make it to districts.”
In the team’s season-ending loss to Fairfield Union, a 1-0 final, Robinson logged each of the Shermans’ five shots on goal. For a while, the thought of that statistic bothered her.
Now, she’s using it as fuel to make herself better.
“I personally shouldered a lot of blame for [the loss to Fairfield Union]. I logged all five shots for our team that game, and missed every one,” she said. “I beat myself up for awhile, but now, I’ve used it for motivation. This year, I’ve worked hard to make sure there’s no repeat of last year and so that I can end my high school career on a good note.”
Of course, that work has happened during a pandemic that seems to change the team’s course daily. Currently, Robinson and her teammates can practice and hold workouts, but they can’t hold scrimmages or matches with any other schools.
“This season is definitely so different. There’s this constant, looming fear of whether or not we will even have a season. That being said, this free time has let us work harder than ever before. I’m so proud of all of my teammates,” Robinson said. “They’re really putting in the work. I really think we’ve risen to the challenge. Despite all of the craziness, we’re still able to get together and work on creating a great team dynamic. This is the best we’ve looked in the preseason during my high school career.”
That’s certainly saying something, considering the teams that Robinson contributed to during her freshman and sophomore campaigns — a pair of squads that finished a combined 31-6-3.
But that was before she made her first-ever start or before she became a bonafide scorer.
Now that those two things have taken place, she wants to leave her own legacy, as does the rest of the Tanks’ senior class.
“To anyone who hasn’t played sports, the importance of the senior year of playing might be lost on them. I’ve played soccer for 14 years of my life. I’m still not sure if I will be able to play in college, so this has the potential to be my last year,” Robinson said. “Not to mention, the seniors this year are truly my best friends.
“I’ve grown up with Sydney Free, Abi Seals, and Erin Callahan, as we played on the same club team. I spent years dreaming of my senior year and now that it’s here, I want nothing more than to go back and do it all over again. I think Unioto is going to be dangerous this year. We’ve got a whole group of seniors who are ready to give it one more go.”
The senior quartet is one of the best in Southern Ohio’s soccer scene. But their supporting cast isn’t too bad, either.
Offensively, Robinson and Callahan will get help from juniors Gracie Heath, Arielle Pelletier and Avery Miller, as well as sophomores Ashtyn Miller and Autumn Stanger. Assisting Seals and Free defensively will be junior Jaidyn McKell and senior Allie Cox.
And that’s just to name a few. There’s certainly more talent oozing out of the Shermans’ roster.
“Our team has something special … great leadership, and great relationships. We are closer than we’ve ever been before,” Robinson said. “We’re all working together and holding each other accountable. I can wholeheartedly say that I love every single one of the girls on my team, and cannot wait to play with them.”
Robinson says she’s aiming to score 25 goals this season. But more importantly, she’s looking to lead Unioto past last year’s 10-win mark and district semifinal finish.
She’s put in the work to do so, she’s learned from leaders who have came before her, and she’s primed to be one of the area’s best in all facets of the game.
“We lost a lot of great seniors last year. They brought a lot of offensive and transitional pressure. That being said, I have no doubt that we will be able to step up and carry on their legacy,” Robinson said. “Personally, I’m working on being a great leader like the previous captains, as well as continuing my scoring streak. I learned a lot from the seniors, and now I’m excited to put it to use.”