Seaholm soccer star secures Miss Soccer

By: Timothy Pontzer | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 29, 2018

 Birmingham Seaholm’s Zoe Gaffney was recently named Miss Soccer.

Birmingham Seaholm’s Zoe Gaffney was recently named Miss Soccer.

Photo by Leon Halip

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BIRMINGHAM — According to soccer coaches across Michigan, Birmingham Seaholm boasted the best player this season.

However, according to Seaholm coach Manuel Rodrigues, the star Maples midfielder would never brag about the accomplishment. In fact, when Rodrigues — now in his sixth year at Seaholm’s helm — informed senior Zoe Gaffney about being named Miss Soccer, she immediately deflected the praise elsewhere.

“The very best thing, and really the most impressive skill she has, is how humble she is,” Rodrigues explained. “When I told her about it, her first reaction was to talk about her teammates and how they helped her win it. It says a lot about her and her thought process that she would choose to not make it all about her, even though that’s exactly what Miss Soccer does.”

Annually decided by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association, the Miss Soccer designation is delivered to the consensus top player, regardless of position, place, division or school size.

Gaffney is the first in Seaholm’s history to achieve the feat in boys or girls soccer.

“I think it’s a huge accomplishment for both myself and the school,” Gaffney said. “I worked very hard this year and so did my team, so it feels great to be rewarded. I’m most proud of my team. Having a team that’s willing to work hard to improve and get the results we want has made my high school experience one to remember.”

Rodrigues continued to laud Gaffney’s team-first approach.

“Being named Miss Soccer brings prestige not only to herself, but Seaholm, and she understands that,” Rodrigues said. “Most importantly, she wanted to do that. She makes everyone around her better. Not just from skill or ability, but the players see her and raise their effort level.”

A two-year team captain, Gaffney said she relished the role.

“I would say my biggest strength on and off the field with my team is my leadership,” Gaffney remarked. “I try to motivate through my work ethic and determination in both games and practices so we can be the best team possible.”

In his tenure at Seaholm, Rodrigues had only allowed seniors to wear the captain’s band. He kept that stance until he met Gaffney.

“(Gaffney) started playing for us her sophomore year after coming from club as a freshman. Immediately I could tell she had unbelievable ability,” Rodrigues said. “But the other thing that really jumped out was her leadership. Even as a sophomore, she was becoming a leader. By the time her junior year came, I had no choice. She was the unquestioned natural leader of the team.”

On the pitch, Gaffney shattered the school record book. In 46 career games, Gaffney tallied 41 goals and 27 assists. Her senior campaign saw her contribute 22 goals and eight helpers.

“(Gaffney) didn’t care if she was the one scoring or setting up someone else, she just wanted to help the team win,” Rodrigues explained. “She was such an unselfish player. She was always able to see the play develop before anyone else. She knew when to make the right touch, pass or shot.”

The midfielder heaped equal praise on her coach.

“Coach Rodrigues and my time at Seaholm prepared me for the next level by giving me a different perspective in the game,” she said.

Gaffney led the Maples to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. In 2017, the club registered a 12-0-4 record. This season, Seaholm went 19-0-3. Both campaigns featured an Oakland Activities Association White Division championship.

“The key to our success was the trust and confidence every player had in one another,” Gaffney explained. “This team got along like no other, and because of that, we were able to excel on the field.”

In addition to earning Miss Soccer status, Gaffney rounded out her 2018 resume with All-League, All-District, All-Region and All-State honors. Her sophomore season saw All-League and All-District accolades, and she accomplished the same during her junior year along with All-Region and All-State recognition.

Gaffney will continue her soccer career at Liberty University in Virginia.

“Honestly, when they signed her, I think they knew she had a chance to be something special, but I don’t know if they knew she’d be this great,” Rodrigues said. “I really don’t think they realize what they’re getting. I truly believe she will be battling for minutes her freshman year.”

Gaffney committed to Liberty in the offseason before her junior year.

“When I was deciding what college to go to, I had to think about who I wanted to be on the field and as a person,” Gaffney said. “I decided that Liberty would make me who I wanted to be on and off the field. When I get there, I want to have a fun and successful soccer career and get an education that will help me in the future.”

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