Q: You played basketball for a while and did a national free-throw competition. How long did you do that before switching over to soccer?
A: I liked basketball before I liked soccer, and [the free-throw shooting] was a thing we did in gym one day. I did it and won. The first year we didn’t really know what [the competition] was, but I did it, and was like, “Ooh, this is fun.” So then I wanted to come back and keep doing it. I did it for six years, and then I started playing travel soccer when I was about 11. It was toward the end of the free-throw contest that I started doing soccer. Then that was just a thing on the side. Then when I was older, when I got too old [for the competition], I just switched over to soccer completely.
Q: Did you play rec soccer before travel?
A: I did that for three or four years. [My dad] coached one of my teams. And then I played [travel with] CVU, and then I went to Richmond. Those were the only two travel teams I played: CVU and Richmond [United].
Q: Did you start playing because your dad or mom wanted you to, or did you just want to do it as a little kid?
A: My cousin started actually learning stuff and taking it seriously, and then he showed it to me. I thought it was cool and wanted to start doing it too. He helped me a lot after that, after I started practicing. He grew up playing soccer. It kind of runs in the family, soccer does.
Q: At what age did you realize you could actually be really good at soccer?
A: I guess when I started playing in Richmond in ninth grade and actually started getting into it, and [when I was] playing in games against really good teams and doing well, I thought maybe I could keep going. It was progressive.
Q: How did you grow as a player this season?
A: I guess learning how to be a leader. I wasn’t a captain. … But I tried to be a leader on the field as much as I could.
Q: Is that an unnatural thing for you? Did you have to work at it?
A: I guess you just have to kind of take over. Not in a selfish way, but you want to help the team out, everyone else and yourself. It wasn’t too unnatural, but you have to adjust to it, and in big games, you have to step up.
Q: Did the position you play (center midfielder) help with in that matter, because the offense does run through you and you were in the center of it all?
A: If I played a little farther back, I think I could’ve started things more. If I’m in the center, I’m along the way. I don’t start [the break] or end it. If I was further back, I could’ve helped a little more.
Q: So do you like playing center mid like you did at JF?
A: Um, I played center back for Richmond, and that’s actually my favorite position to play. … I like telling people where to go. … Midfield, it’s kind of hard to do that.
Q: What sets you apart from other players?
A: I [have] a lot of ball skills and technical-type skills, and my decision-making.
Q: Is that something you’ve had to develop over the years?
A: Yeah. That’s something Richmond helped me with. Playing with guys [in men’s leagues or pickup games] helps me make decisions, because the speed of the game is so fast. … You always have to know what you’re gonna do before you get the ball.
Q: What was the biggest moment, best moment of this season?
A: It was really nice to win districts and the region championship, and Senior Night was really fun, because the underclassmen really do a great job with that kind of stuff. I think for me, the better moments were off the field, like becoming friends. I always become friends with the new kids on the team. I got really close with some of the younger girls, and that was really nice. I think on the field was definitely [cool]. I like playing with everyone, because I love playing soccer, but off the field was fun.
Q: What’s the thing you’ll remember years from now about your high school career?
A: Probably states. Winning states [two seasons ago] was pretty cool.
Q: Do you regret anything from your career?
A: It would’ve been nice to be the one scoring [against Woodgrove], because we lost 4-2. So maybe to be the one scoring in bigger games. I know all the seniors would’ve appreciated to keep going.
Q: So winning the district player of the year and region player of the year this year as a senior, how did those accomplishments rank for you? Are they just as exciting as winning states two years ago?
A: I’ll remember it. I think states was cooler because you won the whole thing. It’s not a big deal for me to get those [awards]. It’s nice, but I would be happy for anyone who got it. The [championship], it means more to everyone, but it’s nice when everyone gets excited for you.
Q: Who was your favorite team to play against in your career?
A: As far as soccer goes, Western Albemarle. I like playing against teams that are good competition, because then when you win, you feel like you actually accomplished something. Winning 8-0 against whoever, it didn’t really mean anything. But if you win 1-0 against a good team, or if it’s a really competitive game, I like that.
Q: What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for younger teammates at JF or younger players in general?
A: I guess [work on] technical [skills], getting a good foundation. It’s really important to have good coaching when you’re young, because once you reach a certain age, you’ve already have habits ingrained in your head, and you can’t change it. … If you have a good foundation, you can build off of that.
Q: So tell me about the recruiting process. How did you end up choosing Liberty?
A: I think my sophomore year, the Liberty coach came out to when we played Glass one time, and he was interested in me and one other player. We both went to a camp in the summer, and when he could contact me, he wanted to set up a meeting. … My dad works at Liberty, and I wanted to stay close to home for college.
Q: Do you know what you want to do career-wise?
A: I don’t know exactly, but something revolving around math. I’m not quite sure what yet. [Math] has always been my best subject. I’ve always done well with it.
Q: What are you doing this summer?
A: It’s fun to stay in shape for indoor. I play on two indoor teams.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies?
A: I like video games.
Q: What’s your favorite game?
A: Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto, I started playing that when I was like 6. Same with Guitar Hero.
Q: Who’s your favorite soccer player or athlete?
A: I like David Silva ... and Messi, of course.
Q: So do you think Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo?
A: I think so, yeah. And he’s less way less arrogant. I don’t like arrogant people.
Q: Who’s your favorite teacher?
A: [Heather] Hevener. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. She did calculus 1 and 2.
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: I really love horror movies. I don’t have one favorite movie, but that’s my favorite genre. And I like funny movies.
Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: I really like “Ridiculousness” and “Impractical Jokers.” ... We watched “Dance Moms” when it was big. “Friends.” “The Office.” We watch “The Walking Dead.”
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
A: Of course I would choose a famous person, because I can eat dinner with, like, my friends anytime. That’s a hard one. I really don’t know. A lot of famous people are jerks. I would want to eat with someone who’s funny. Probably like a comedian. Maybe like Adam Sandler. When I was younger I watched “iCarly,” and I always wanted to meet those actors, so that’d be cool.
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.