Three years ago, Taylor Brune had never played a game of soccer and knew very little about the sport.
This year, the Wharton High School junior has been named by MaxPreps as the best girls goalie in saves in Texas and the third best in the nation.
“I grew up playing sports, I swam, I played volleyball, and never did I think in my life that I was going to play soccer,” she said.
Brune credits her former coaches for turning her onto soccer.
“(Coaches Julio) Delgado and (Donald) Lindsey have helped me out so much. I went in not knowing anything about soccer, like at all. I barely knew you couldn’t touch the ball with your hands unless you’re the goalie. And so my freshman year, Lindsay was the girls coach and Delgado was the boys. So they sort of collaborated together to help us and I’ve just been building up from there,” Brune said.
Although Delgado and Lindsey are no longer with the school, Brune has continued to improve her skills under coach Christopher Martin.
“Taylor is a hard worker who has shown a lot of growth as a leader,” Martin said. “To have the most saves in the state, and be third nationally, is a huge sign of how good she is and can be. When she wants to, she can change the dynamics of a game with her poise and energy. I look forward to seeing what she can accomplish next year.”
Brune said she was unaware of her rankings until the end of the season when her grandparents and coach surprised her with the news.
“They had decided to keep it a secret for a little bit,” she said. “They wanted to surprise me at the end of the season, show me how far I’ve gotten. And when they did. Oh my gosh! It was just, I don’t even know how to explain the feeling, it was so cool!”
Brune, the daughter of Brooke and Juston Brune, played every minute of all 17 games this past season. She had 300 saves with an average 17.6 saves per game.
Although the team finished sixth with a 5-9 district record, Brune said it was a rebuilding year marked with steady improvement.
“My sophomore year, we had eight starting seniors. So it was really hard losing them. And we had to build up. We have lots of freshmen starting this year … some of them had never played before ... So it was just a lot of rebuilding, we had to find out where everyone was, what their strengths were, what they were better at than others. And it just it was a lot of hard work because our entire defense line last year was seniors. So we lost them. So we just had to keep rebuilding.
“I had players on my team that had never played defense before have to step up with me to play on defense because we had no one else. Like Catherine Gomez and Finley Fox, they had never played defense before. And they had to drop back. And they took it upon themselves to say, ‘hey, we’re going to help this defense line because we can’t have anything happening like a bad score or anything,’ especially with harder teams in the district like Bay City. So they dropped back and helped me a lot on defense. They saved me a lot of times. So it could have been just one-on-one, me and the striker on the other team. And they came back and helped a lot.”
In addition to crediting her coaches and teammates, Brune also recognizes another source of her abilities.
“I just I have to thank the Lord God for my gifts for blessing me to be this athletic and this successful,” she said. “I can’t do it without him. His guidance really keeps me grounded and just keeps me going. I pray before every game; I pray before every swim meet, hoping he keeps me healthy, keeps me uninjured. I do my best, my team does our best, to help us win just to carry us to success. Without him it wouldn’t be possible. I like to think my team loves me. I love my team.”
Although Brune has one more year of high school left, she is already thinking beyond that.
“I plan to play it as long as possible. Hopefully in college,” she said. “One of my closest friends, Kaylie Goad, she actually got a scholarship for soccer, track, and cross country in Arkansas. And I’m hoping that I get the same stuff because I would love to be able to play with her sometime, or just more soccer. Just I love soccer so much.”
After college, Brune wants to become a coach.
“I do definitely want to go to college. I want to coach whenever I graduate. That’s what I want to do, because I just love sports,” she said. “My plans so far, if I don’t get a scholarship offer or something, I’m going to try two years at WCJC (Wharton County Junior College) and transfer to a college like Sam Houston, where I think I would try to play sports there. But that’s my base plan. Of course, my dream is to play soccer at UT-Austin with those girls that go to Paris and stuff.”
Even though Brune went from naïve rookie to soccer star in three years, she had a slow start.
“So my freshman year I didn’t play a lot because there was a senior keeper. So she got most of her playing time. And I just got in whenever we were ahead enough,” Brune said. “And then my sophomore year, I was the only one. It was just me. So I had to just do a lot of work to catch up with the team because there was no one else but me. So we worked hard, pretty much every practice.”
This season, Brune assumed a leadership position with the departure of so many seniors from last year. She said the season started out with a losing streak. Then came the game against Calhoun.
“It was freezing cold. We were down two starters. And I could tell everyone wasn’t really hopeful. Everyone just kind of wanted to just get this game over with,” she said.
A goal by Wharton tied the game and marked a major turning point in the season.
“In the second half, we all start playing as hard as we can. We end up winning the game. And that was our first win of the season. And from there, it just went up. We were just a team, like forgetting all the seniors that we had lost, forgetting all the new incoming freshmen who had never played before, we started playing. And we at one point, we were third in district to where we had a shot to go into playoffs,” she said.
Looking ahead, Brune has high hopes for the Lady Tigers next year.
“If those girls aren’t ready to play next year like that, because they know that we can get up there … we have a shot at playoffs. I think we’re going to be first in district next year,” she said.
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