2017 Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Hannah Max closes impactful SVCA career with strong senior season
STEPHENS CITY – High school coaches in every sport have players come through their programs that leave behind a little bit extra than most upon their departure. Hannah Max’s girls soccer career at Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy lasted only two years, but her impact won’t be something that head coach Dustin Wheelock will forget any time soon.
In those two seasons Max, who, along with younger sisters Rebekah and Sarah, is homeschooled and commuted daily from Round Hill to Stephens City for practice each day during the spring season, built an impressive resume.
She amassed 67 goals and 30 assists during what will go down as one of the most prolific careers posted by an SVCA girls soccer player. Beyond the statistics, Max was a team captain and part of the fuel that helped power the Patriots to a National Association of Christian Athletes Division I tournament championship this past season.
All of that combined will provide Wheelock, who watched Max’s approach to each game spread throughout the team as the season progressed, with plenty to reference in the years to come when working with future Patriots.
“She’s one of those players that has left a legacy in our program,” Wheelock said last week. “She’s a complete player, where her skill is great, her movement off the ball is great, but her leadership. She’s a captain for us, just a great leader, puts the Lord first in her life. So she’s one of those girls that for years to come we’ll point to as coaches and just say look, this is what she was doing off the field and it showed on the field.”
Max, who for years has honed her skills playing travel soccer in Loudoun County, burst onto the scene for SVCA last season and followed that up with a senior season that was just as productive in 2017.
In her final high school campaign Max, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2017 Girls Soccer Player of the Year, struck for 30 goals and added 18 assists for the Patriots. She trailed only her sister Sarah (35) for the area’s top mark in goals scored this past season, and her 18 assists easily led all local girls players.
Max said much like last season, when she erupted for 37 goals, she had to remain confident on the field and trust in her own abilities. But this season was different in that there was no acclimation process needed after going through an introductory phase with her new teammates last spring.
Max added that she also was more “intentional” about her play this season whenever she was in possession of the ball.
“Last year there were some times when I’d probably try to beat a defender when I should’ve played it or played a ball when I should’ve taken it myself. But I think this year I tried to be more intentional and know when it was best to play a through ball to someone or when it was best just to hold it to myself,” Max said. “So yeah, probably some of that is just confidence and trusting what I think is best at that time, but it’s also just more mature on the ball and stuff.”
Max, who averaged over a goal per game, was a consistent contributor all season for SVCA, but perhaps her biggest impact on the field for the Patriots came when the stakes were at their highest.
In the NACA tournament in Tennessee last month, Max combined for five goals in the first two matches of pool play to help boost the Patriots into the Division I championship game. Wheelock said Max’s performance – she netted a hat trick in the first game – “set the tone” for SVCA’s championship run.
“Hannah’s demeanor on the field, how calm she was, it just allowed us to relax and just say this year we can handle this,” Wheelock said. “And the first two games she really kind of just, I don’t wanna say carried us because everybody played well, but she set the stage for us and allowed us to be calm. She got an early goal in that first game, which just really instantly calmed us down, allowed us to play our style.”
In 2016, a loss in their first match of the NACA tournament dropped the Patriots into the Division II title game after pool play. Familiarity with the setting helped Max and the Patriots avoid a similar fate this past spring, Max said.
“I think for me it was just mainly last year I had no clue what to expect, so I was really nervous, especially my first game. I remember coming off just not really playing like myself,” Max said. “But this year I think we all just kind of knew what to expect but also knew what we wanted by the end of the week. And we also knew what it would take to get there and we were all willing and wanting to put that in and get that championship.”
Max’s fondest memory of the 2017 season came during that run to the national championship, she said.
She recalled the Patriots’ tight matchup with Providence Athletic Club in the third and final game of pool play on May 11, which the Patriots won 2-1 in the final minute when Max’s sister Rebekah took a free kick that was headed in by twin sister Sarah for the game-winner.
“I remember that moment, like we just all went crazy,” Max said. “The fans were going crazy and we were all sprinting around the field because, I don’t know, that was kind of what were working for all season, so in the last 30 seconds of the game for that all to come together for a win, that was pretty awesome.”
SVCA captured the program’s first NACA Division I championship since 2014 with a 5-3 win over Dayspring Christian Academy (Blacksburg) on May 12, providing a satisfying end to Max’s somewhat brief but rewarding career at the private school.
Max plans to continue her playing career at Wheaton College (Illinois), an NCAA Division III member.
“I will always remember all the successes we had on the field but also my teammates who I’ve gotten know over these years, and my coaches. Every year at SVCA was really important to me, not just into my soccer but also my character,” Max said. “I definitely appreciate that and I’ll remember that.
“Our purpose this year was ‘training with purpose.’ That was our motto. So kind of just taking that into everything I do, just knowing my purpose, not being to necessarily win on the field but being able share the love Christ through my sport.”