Athlete of the Week: Sharks net leadership from Wallace

sjsoc-17It’s been a roller-coaster season for the St. James High boys soccer team, but senior center midfielder Brandon Wallace is enjoying the ride and steering the Sharks into the postseason.

Despite losing several seniors and some key underclassmen off last year’s team and undergoing an offseason coaching change, the Sharks are heading to the Class 3A playoffs and appear to be peaking at the right time behind the leadership of Wallace and his felloe seniors.

“We lost (12) players from last year so we’ve had some trouble with team chemistry,” said Wallace, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week.. “But as the season has gone along we have started coming together as a team. I think if we can finish up strong we’ve got a good chance to make a run.”

In addition to graduating nine seniors, the Sharks lost three key underclassmen – leading scorers Conor Sloan and Quadarius Grate and goalkeeper Haywood Brandon –  who signed pro contracts that prevent them from playing at the high school level. Former coach Monty Carr was replaced by coach Drew Pavy with assistance from girls coach Thuba Nkomazana.

“(Brandon) is a key part of the team as he is always involved on the offense, not only scoring goals, but creating goals for his teammates,” said Pavy. “Throughout his high school career he has had to play many different positions, but he has always stepped up for the betterment of the team.”

The mass turnover has left a lot of responsibility for Wallace, who has been playing soccer since he was 4 and have up baseball and basketball in middle school to focus solely on the sport. His senior season has been a topsy-turvy ride from the start, but he has been up to the challenge, scoring 10 goals and making four assists so far this year.

“We came out in the Michael Nash Memorial Tournament and beat Socastee 3-0,” Wallace recalled. “I think we got a little overconfident and we really struggled in the middle of the season.”

The Sharks got off to an unlikely 7-0 start but then won only two of their next nine outings, including a 1-0 loss to rival Socastee in a rematch that counted toward the region record and left St. James on the bubble for a playoff bid.

Following some down time over spring break, the Sharks rattled off three straight wins last week by a combined score of 11-1 to clinch the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, beginning with a 6-0 shutout of Wilson in which Wallace netted a hat trick.

“I think the Wilson game was a big turning point for us because we had lost three games in a row,” Wallace recalled. “Things really started clicking for us after that game. We won three in a row and took (No. 3-ranked) Myrtle Beach to a shootout.”

The Sharks came out on the short end of penalty kicks by a 5-4 score but gained some much-needed confidence that they can play with anyone in the state when they play their best. That’s good news for Wallace and his teammates heading to the final week of the regular season and the playoffs.

“We’ve got Wilson and Socastee this week, so we want to finish up strong and build up some steam going into the playoffs,” Wallace said. “I think we can beat with anybody when we play our best.”

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