It was the final seconds of the high school state girls soccer final for Broomfield, the last moments of a stellar career for back-to-back all-state standout Maddie Brady, when the tears welled up and the manifestation of feelings from a long season poured out.
The Eagles had reached the pinnacle game in Class 5A for a second straight season last month, though the latest ending had proven bittersweet with the repeat bid falling just short.
The scene there at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is that of finality. Players still representing their schools on the pitch over the final days of the spring season eventually accept their championship and runner-up trophies before heading back into their respective locker rooms. Joyous sounds leak out from outside one door. The other is quiet.
Only when the raw emotions fade, seniors like Brady can fully cherish the journey. The growth as a player. Person. The wins. The bus ride laughs.
“I believe mentally I grew the most while playing for (Broomfield coach) Jim Davidson,” Brady reflected while at a club tournament in California this past week. “I had to learn how to play with girls I didn’t play with very often and the style of play is different from what I’m comfortable to. So, on the field it required me to be open-minded and to look at the field in a whole new way, especially in the (Front Range League).”
Now, she like so many other student-athletes flip the page. Brady already calls East Lansing, Michigan, home. She will study and play soccer at Michigan State.
At the spring season’s end, the Broomfield grad made up one of four city players honored with 5A first team accolades. The other three are also currently committed to play at Division-I programs after high school, with Brady’s now-senior teammate Reagan Kotschau locked in at Washington State, Legacy grad and BoCoPreps.com player of the year Juliauna Hayward at Colorado and her former Lightning teammate Kendall Rippley, now a senior, at Air Force.
Brady and Hayward had been recruited by a chorus of D-I coaches over the years — and while Brady thought she’d never leave the state and Hayward had planned to head out of it, both changed course as they got older.
Brady said her choice to go Spartan green was underlined with a belief in the coaching staff. A memorable trip to the campus then gave it some reality.
“The campus is no joke,” Brady said. “It is legit and that is where I want to spend the next four (or) five years of my life on and off the field.”
Hayward meanwhile said she wants to elevate the program in Boulder. Originally a Duke commit, which finished this past NCAA season ranked fifth by the United Soccer Coaches, the dynamic midfielder will look to make her mark for CU athletics — just as her father Julian did 30 years before while playing for the 1990 national championship football team.
“As I got older, I realized I wanted to go somewhere where I could change the whole soccer program in itself,” Hayward said. “I’m hoping these next four years that I get to play college soccer I can help develop CU’s soccer program even more.”
Behind them by a year in school, Brady and Hayward leave high school teammates Kotschau and Rippley, two likely contenders for 2023’s 5A player of the year.
Kotschau, who has been recognized as one of the best midfielders in the state the past two seasons, is a two-time all-state player who helped lead the Eagles to a title in 2021 before their runner-up finish to Grandview last month. In another year, she is expected to join Hayward in the Pac-12 where UCLA and Stanford have dominated the conference since 2001.
Rippley, on the other hand, will be back for Broomfield’s crosstown rival. A junior last season, Rippley finished with 34 goals, the most in 5A in at least a decade, and was one half of a explosive duo with Hayward as the two helped lead the Lightning to the state quarterfinals.
Rippley said her commitment to Air Force was in part based on the “goals and morals of the people there.” She’d been in contact with the likes of Michigan, The Citadel and Colorado State during her recruiting, but nothing compared.
“If I’m comparing everything to Air Force and nothing is matching up, it’s got to be home,” she said with a laugh.
The Boulder, Broomfield and Longmont areas saw a combined 19 athletes selected to the first and second all-state teams. Multiple local seniors and juniors are currently committed to play soccer at the next level.