NORTON SHORES — Mona Shores girls soccer coach Dylan Darga describes senior standout Mia Brown as a Spitfire on the field, and with good reason.
The Sailors central midfielder isn’t afraid to fight through contact to gain possession or fight for position against taller players while the ball is in the air. That kind of underdog mentality comes from years of fending for herself as the youngest sister in a family of talented soccer players.
Nora Brown, Mia’s older sister, is second in program history for career goals scored, while Ethan Brown, Mia’s older brother, has had an impressive prep career for the Sailors and is currently a freshman on the Calvin College men’s soccer team.
“I can only imagine the kind of scuffle she went through when she played her at home,” Darga said of Mia Brown’s entry into football. “That probably explains why she’s such a Spitfire out there, because she had to be to ever get the ball from her older siblings.
“Nora was one of the best goalscorers Mona Shores has ever had. She is second all-time in goals scored to Sarah Mikesell and later played at Muskegon Community College. Ethan has been a phenomenal player for the boys team here and he is currently a freshman at Calvin College. Mia is also currently involved with Calvin so next year she will be going over there with Ethan.”
Darga occasionally gets a front row seat to the sibling rivalry when Nora visits Mona Shores’ offices.
“We had Nora for a couple of our practices and just to see the admiration and love between the two of them is amazing,” he said. “You can tell Mia really looks up to her older sister and I think she probably learned a lot of tips and tricks growing up watching her sister play here. Now she really brings it all together and has become a very influential player for us.”
The opportunity to see her older sister play at such a high level helped Mia Brown gain an edge over the competition as she reached varsity level.
“I just learned a lot from her about the importance of staying calm under pressure and playing with yourself, even when the other team is trying to frustrate you. It’s difficult, but you just have to keep your composure, stay calm and just always have a team first mentality.”
Brown is an experienced leader for a Mona Shores squad who improved to 4-1-1 with a 5-0 home win over OK Green Conference rivals Reeths-Puffer on Thursday.
Brown scored the team’s final goal by doing what she did best, flashing through defenders, using her vision to create a scoring chance and firing a shot past the goalie to put her team into a better one position to win.
“Mia can play 80 minutes and she can play 80 minutes at a very high level,” said Darga. “Her speed and football IQ are simply unmatched at this level. As an attacking midfielder, she plays the game much harder than what that position usually entails. She wins almost every 50/50 ball, she always challenges possession when the ball is in the air and she will absolutely kill the opposing team’s flow.
“That’s why I love playing her in that position because she just devastates the other team. She rewarded herself with a really nice goal to end the game so I was really happy to see that tonight.”
Brown has learned to channel her energy and vision through years of playing against bigger and bigger opponents and has become one of West Michigan’s top midfielders this spring.
“I feel like my pass is probably what makes me a good footballer,” she said. “I like using the field and my vision to create scoring chances for my teammates and just being a playmaker. Ever since I was younger I’ve always been a central midfielder so I’m just used to getting the ball and looking for my outside centers and forwards and attacking.
“I also played an age group when I was younger, so when you’re one of the youngest on the field you have to be strong with the ball and be relentless. You just can’t give in.”
The senior team captain is also a vocal leader of her team as she follows in her family’s footsteps.
“My sister was a senior leader when I was a freshman and she kind of showed me the ropes as a varsity player, so I’m trying to do that now with all the upcoming underclassmen this year,” she said.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement from girls like Addison Nellis and Shay Norden so far this season. They learn to use each other better in the passing game and I think that works really well for our team. They’ve provided a lot of assists and goals together and they’re two players who are really gaining a lot of confidence at the start of this season.
Mona Shores has reached the district championship game in five consecutive seasons but only won a district title once, in 2017. Brown and the rest of the Sailors hope to change that narrative this spring.
“We want to win districts this year and move on after that,” she said. “We also want to win our conference again because we’ve won that for the last four years, so we want to continue that streak. Those are our main goals right now, so we’re just focusing on getting better as a team every day so we can eventually get there.”
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