O’Connell Wins Soccer Player of the Year

By Beacon Staff

Meghan O’Connell was minutes away from taking her SAT when a friend asked her how she felt – not about the test but about winning the 2007-08 Gatorade Montana Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.

O’Connell wasn’t aware she had won.

“I didn’t know at all,” she said.

Now she does and, to answer her friend’s question, she feels good.

“It’s a great honor and shows all the hard work I’ve put into soccer,” O’Connell said. “I’ve also had some great teams and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

In the fall, O’Connell scored 24 goals in 16 games as a forward for the Flathead Bravettes, who finished fourth in the state with a record of 10-2-4. O’Connell also had eight assists. She is now a candidate for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award and the high school All-America team.

O’Connell began playing soccer when she was 5 years old and then competitively for the select league when she was 10 years old. That’s when she began playing with Ashley Younkin, who is also her basketball teammate. Younkin said O’Connell has always made soccer easier for everybody around her.

“She’s so talented,” Younkin said. “She makes you better from playing with her and just watching her.”

On the basketball court, O’Connell is a standout guard. At last year’s state tournament, to close out her all-conference junior season, she was selected to the all-tournament team for the Bravettes, who finished third. This year, the Bravettes look poised to make it back to state after winning five out of their last six games to bring their record to 10-6. After a 69-48 loss to Missoula Big Sky on Feb. 9, the Bravettes have a conference record of 5-3.

O’Connell hopes to follow the footsteps of her good friend Annie Braseth, who was a Gatorade Montana Player of the Year finalist last year and is now playing for Adelphi University in New York. O’Connell plans to play in college. She’s good enough at both basketball and soccer that she hopes to continue playing both. She has looked into Carroll College, but nothing is set in stone, she said.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could decide (between the sports),” she said.

Before college, O’Connell has to focus on some unfinished business – guiding the Bravettes to the state basketball tournament and graduating high school come to mind. But there is another, less demanding though important obligation: enjoying her remaining time in the Flathead. Over the summer she said she will get a job, earn some money for college and kick back.

“It’s my last full summer here,” she said. “Have some fun. Just be a teenager.”