Some may call it a dream come true.
Not Brenna Robinson. Her final season at Creekside turned into a dream she never imagined.
Robinson, the defensive leader of the Knights’ Florida High School Athletic Association first-ever championship squad, is the 2021-22 Times-Union All-First Coast Player of the Year for high school girls’ soccer.
“It was just unreal,” said the senior centre-back. “For a million years, I didn’t think my senior year would be this good.”
Robinson scored one goal with 12 assists and took Creekside to new heights in a fantastic final month.
national champion. State Player of the Year. Heading to play college soccer in her hometown of Jacksonville. A memorable end to anyone’s high school athletic career.
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Robinson started playing soccer around the age of 4, although she says it didn’t move up to a more serious level until the start of middle school.
She wasn’t the only one aiming for victory on the soccer field. A few years younger and similarly talented on the field was her sister Avery, now a sophomore and midfield ace for the Knights.
But until their last two years at Creekside, the sisters’ football lives were separated by a time gulf. Due to age group divisions common in American youth soccer, Brenna said her 2020-21 junior season at Creekside was the first time she ever competed alongside her sister.
The two were a perfect combination. Brenna organized the defense with composure and leadership. Avery added the dribbling creativity and deadly long-range shots.
The result was double trouble for Creekside’s opponents.
“Football was our whole life but we couldn’t experience it together,” she said. “It seems kind of weird at first, but it was super fun.”
Lead the pack
When Creekside’s first-year coach Joe Soto came to lead the team in the fall, he quickly realized he had a defender with ideal qualities for the position.
“She’s very intelligent,” Soto said. “She reads the game really well and puts herself in very good positions.”
More than ever, Robinson took on a leadership role in 2021/22.
A lone senior on the defensive line last season, Robinson formed the heart of a young but solid unit that included Hayden Petrick at right, Skye Tumbelty at center and Avery Upton at left.
“I love to play defense. It’s a bit nerve-wracking defending because you know if someone’s behind you in the back line, there’s nobody left,” Robinson said. “It’s always that kind of mentality for me: don’t let this player pass me.”
Her determination and composure helped Creekside barricade the net from the start of the season. The Knights started 9-0 and conceded just one goal in the first month.
“You need that as a centre-back,” said Soto. “You can be fast, you can be athletic, but if you’re not in position you’ll get beaten… Brenna’s positioning and intelligence really set her apart.”
Perhaps no game showed Robinson’s mental toughness quite like the regional semifinals against then-Nation No. 1 rival Bartram Trail. She had put the ball into her own net after a first-half deflection but was able to bounce back, scoring two Creekside goals and frustrating an explosive Bears attack in the Knights’ 3-2 win.
“Their ability to kind of block out that moment and push us past Bartram Trail in that semi-final, that was their defining moment,” said Soto.
Show the way forward
For years, Robinson expected most of her contributions to be closer to her own web. Not so in 2021-22.
Robinson finished with 12 assists, an unusually high number for a central defender.
Most of those assists came from free-kicks and corners, an unusual responsibility for her position but one that she enjoyed.
“I really try to be part of the attack with my corners and set pieces so I feel like I’m part of a goal,” she said.
She helped lift the championship trophy when Creekside beat Cypress Bay in the Class 7A championship, and by the end of the season her performance was winning national awards.
Voters across Florida voted Robinson for the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Soccer Award, the first ever player from St. Johns County to take home the trophy.
“It was like the icing on the cake,” she said.
Robinson will not travel far to continue her football journey. She begins her collegiate career in August at the University of North Florida, where the Ospreys have added nearly a dozen Jacksonville-area players to the roster.
“It’s like a family atmosphere, everyone super close,” she said. “So I’m really looking forward to it.”
Brenna Robinson, girls soccer
Summary: Led Creekside to its first-ever state championship. … scored one goal and 12 assists in the regular season. … Three-time All-First Coast selection. … Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Soccer award winner. … Signed with North Florida.
Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.