By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy junior Hannah McGann wasn't so sure about this whole "midfield" thing before the start of the girls soccer season.
Hard to blame her, really -- McGann had been playing forward exclusively since the seventh grade, and playing it well. Why change a good thing, right?
Patriots coach Dustin Wheelock knew it needed to be done in order to better incorporate McGann's dangerous field vision and uncanny passing ability in SVCA's attack.
"That's a really hard thing to do as a player," Wheelock said. "Some girls will play a lot of different positions. Hannah has always been a forward. She wouldn't say it to me, but I knew she was a bit apprehensive about moving to mid. But the impact she's had has just been phenomenal."
If McGann had any lingering doubts as this season went on, here's the moment that likely erased them for good -- with eight minutes to go in a scoreless tie against rival Fresta Valley Christian and a Virginia Association of Christian Athletics (VACA) state championship on the line, McGann was in the right place at the perfect time. From her center-mid position, McGann spotted teammate Megan Norton dashing through the penalty box and pushed her a pinpoint through ball. Norton had only the sweeper to beat, which she did for the game's only goal in SVCA's 1-0 victory.
"I was thinking if I could just poke it through, I knew she could run onto it," Norton said.
It was the final play of many this season for Norton, who is The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for May 11-17. She finished the season with a team-high 15 assists and was second only to Norton in goals with 18. Teamed with Norton and Abi Beaty in the midfield, McGann came to admit that the center is the place to be after all in the Patriots' 4-5-1 attack.
"I see myself as a midfielder now," McGann said. "I definitely think it suits the way I play."
The weather put a damper on the start of McGann's week. Hosting Roanoke Valley Christian in the VACA state quarterfinals last Tuesday, the Patriots got the game's first goal when McGann sprung loose and finished for the score. That one will just have to be a memory, though -- a lightning delay late in the first half eventually became a cancellation, which wiped out that score.
A day later, the Patriots restarted their matchup against Roanoke Valley in Staunton. McGann chipped in with two assists, both on corner kicks that she sent directly into the box to spark goals in the SVCA's 3-1 victory.
"She played two very nice balls in there that our girls were able to get a head on," Wheelock said.
McGann said she hadn't taken corner kicks until this year, either.
The Patriots had an easier time in the semifinals against New Covenant, rolling to a 4-0 victory. McGann got another assist in that game, and added a goal off a penalty kick. That was her first of those this season.
The championship followed a day later, as SVCA pulled off a first for the program by winning both the VACA and the National Association of Christian Athletics (NACA) titles in the same year.
McGann was among five SVCA players to earn VACA All-Tournament honors, adding to a list of honors that include first-team VACA All-North Region, first team VACA All-State and NACA All-American honors.
The Patriots lose just two seniors off this team, and Wheelock is expecting even bigger things from McGann next season.
"She's going to be a huge contributor for our team next year," Wheelock said.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>