Every Cinderella team needs a star player – a newcomer or maybe one with improved talent to another level – that can lift a program into a winner.
Mattie Murphy played that role as a freshman last year. She led Middle Creek’s girls soccer team on a late-season run and state runner-up finish in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
But winning teams also need glue players who are often the unsung hero. That was Maggie Banks’ role as a defender.
Middle Creek returned both Murphy as a sophomore dynamic talent and Banks as a senior team captain this year with the hope of winning the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title and making another deep run in the playoffs.
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“She’s an extremely humble player and great leader,” Middle Creek coach Guy Coleman said. “The girls really rally around her. She’s a great defender in the air – winning balls in the air – and a great student at school. She’s a great kid to have on your team.”
Banks scored one of Middle Creek’s goals on a header off a corner from Murphy in the Mustangs’ 5-0 win over Apex Friendship on March 23.
The Mustangs made it look easy against Apex Friendship’s young program without a senior class, but they’ve learned that after last year’s playoff run no one is overlooking them.
“Last year we had the mentality of shock the world, but we know this year everyone is coming after us,” Banks said. “We know we have to keep our heads down and focus on the regular season. We’re focused each game until we get to the playoffs.”
That focus has also helped the Mustangs stay in touch with what got them this far. A year ago they were only 8-5-6 before winning five straight playoffs games. The streak came to an end in the state final in a 2-1 loss to Charlotte’s Providence High.
This year’s group has already matched that win total, going 8-3-2 (7-2-1 in the SWAC).
“We didn’t win too much my sophomore year (2015), but we started coming together last year on bus rides and from hanging out together,” Banks said. “We formed a bond and everything fell into place in the playoffs. ... We have our main unit and a lot of seniors back from last year. We’ve tried to keep it together like last year.”
Banks’ offseason focus was to improve her offense to contribute to this year’s success. In addition to a goal against Apex Friendship, she scored the game-winner on a header to beat Panther Creek 2-1 in the SWAC opener.
“I needed to attack more this year instead of sitting back and protecting,” she said. “I needed to get up and score some goals. I’m attacking more, but I’m also trying to deliver my teammates more than score.”
The glue she adds helps the Mustangs stick to last year’s success.