After playing her first two seasons of collegiate soccer alongside older sister, junior Brianna Brannan is ready to make a name for herself, as she becomes a leader on Eastern’s young 2012 squad.
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
Whether it was in club soccer, high school or here at Eastern Washington University, junior defender Brianna Brannan has always been on a team with at least one of her three sisters. But this season, for the first time in her life, she is the only Brannan on the roster.
Many Eastern fans may remember Brianna’s older sister, Whitney, who played for the Eagles from 2008-11. Whitney was a three-time All-Big Sky Conference selection. She left EWU with eight school records to her name – four career, one single season and three single game. She is the all-time leading scorer at Eastern with 17 goals, and also holds the career record for assists (11) and points (45).
As a defender, Brannan will not be putting up those statistics, but she hopes to have just as big of an impact on the other end of the field. In a sport where goals earn the glory, Brannan has learned to fall in love with stopping them.
Brannan and the Eagles host Idaho and Hawaii this weekend for their final two non-conference games of the season. The Vandals come to Cheney on Friday (Sept. 14) with kickoff scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern and Hawaii face off on Sunday at 1 p.m.
When you first joined the Eagle soccer team in 2010, your sister was playing here. What was it like being together on the team?
“It was great. I absolutely loved playing with her [Whitney]. I played two years of club soccer with her, two years in high school and then two years of college. I really liked that. I mean, we do have our fair share of fights, but overall it was a really good experience.”
Is there a difference for you now that you’re the only Brannan on the roster?
“Whitney was the kind of person anyone could go to. She was a really good leader. Although she is kind of quiet, she has the biggest heart in the world and would do anything for anybody. Now that she’s gone, I feel like I can step up and be a bigger leader, because she was my older sister and I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. I do miss her and it’s hard to not be out on the field with her anymore, but at least I still get to live with her here in Cheney while she finishes up her degree.”
Although you obviously play different positions, Whitney was a big time scorer at Eastern. Do you ever feel pressured based on what she was able to accomplish?
“No, she scored the goals, but I like to feel that for the most part, I stop them. As defenders, we put our bodies in front of balls and try to maneuver ourselves in that way. Whitney was an amazing scorer and I praise her for that. But we have different talents, and both of us are accustomed to them.”
What are some of the highlights of a defender that people do not see based on stats?
“Well, the feeling we have when we get a shutout. Or even if we do get a goal scored on us, I think the overall feeling you share with your back line when stopping goals and helping your goalie to feel better. Basically, we are the last people who can stop the ball from hitting the goal, and when you do that, you just feel really good about yourself.”
Do you ever wish you were in a position where you had more opportunities to score?
“Well I played up front for awhile in high school. I played forward and wing. I liked working with Whitney up there in that sense, but I think my height is more useful in the back. I kind of like the physicality that comes with being a defender, so I actually like this position more.”
There are a lot of younger players on the team this year. Being a junior with more experience than many of them, how would you describe your role?
“We have three senior captains on the team this year, but I feel I have that natural leader in me, so I find myself always encouraging the girls, especially on the back line. We have most of the same players back there as last year, but it’s different because we are doing different things within a new system. From my position, I can see the whole field, so I can let other players know when they can turn and just be there to encourage them.”
You have started every game so far in your junior campaign. Is there a different approach now than in years past coming off the bench?
“No, being a starter is a little more nerve wracking, because if I mess up, I don’t want to get taken out. I worked my butt off to earn the starting spot, so when I’m out there, I just want to prove that I deserve to be on the field.”
When playing defense, how would you describe your style of play - aggressive or safe?
“I pick and choose my moments, but overall, I think all four of us on the back line are pretty aggressive. We have to be in that position, but we also have to be patient because we don’t want to step at the wrong time.”
What are some of your personal and team goals for this season?
“We really want to go to the Big Sky Tournament, and really, we want to win the Big Sky. But overall, I just want us to win games. Our team goal right now is to come together, figure out everybody’s strengths and just work to them. I feel like this is a really talented group of girls. We are passing really well and working extremely hard, so I just want our team to come together and start winning games.”
Before coming to Eastern, what were some of your best soccer memories?
“My senior year of high school, we qualified for the state tournament. But in order to get there, we had to win two playoff games. The first one went to double overtime and I ended up scoring a header goal to win it. Our next game went to overtime again, and one of my teammates scored the golden goal. So, it was pretty exciting that two golden goals got us to state.”
Also in my senior year, I had my two younger sisters on the team with me. One was a freshman and the other a sophomore, but they were both on varsity with me. I had played with Whitney for two years before, and then I got to play with them. It was an awesome experience playing with all my sisters, because we’re all so close.”
Who are some of your role models and why?
“I would have to say my parents. They have always had a huge impact and have always encouraged me. Another huge role model in my life has been my grandma. She is always there for me if I need someone to talk to, and I just really appreciate her. I am a big family girl. Obviously, my sisters mean a lot to me, and my parents and my grandma have both really helped shape who I am.”
What are some of your interests outside of soccer?
“Like I said, I am a really big family girl, but my faith is also really important. I like taking the time to focus on getting closer to God and working on my spiritual beliefs. My roommate and I have actually taken on doing chapel for the team.”