By DAVE LINK
Brinley Murphy isn’t resting on her laurels. Never has. Never will.
The Bearden senior is laser-focused on the next step of her soccer career – playing in fall of 2023 for South Carolina, which won the SEC championship this year.
Murphy is currently playing for FC Alliance, and she didn’t get much of a soccer break after leading Bearden (24-0) to its second consecutive Class AAA state championship Oct. 29.
“We had the state championship on Saturday and started practice on Monday,” Murphy said.
The state title capped a banner season for Bearden and career for Murphy, who finished with a school-record 110 career goals and scored 41 this year, tying Amy Porter (2008 season) for most goals in a season.
Bearden spent most of this season ranked No. 1 in the nation by United Soccer Coaches and kept the top spot with a 3-1 victory over Germantown Houston in the state title match.
Murphy is the 5Star Preps Player of the Year for the third consecutive year; she was co-player of the year in 2020 with Maryville senior Kayla Barr, a Tennessee signee.
“Brinley cemented herself in record books,” Bearden coach Ryan Radcliffe said, “and she did so with two years of being somebody that teams were double teaming and triple teaming. I think in terms of would you classify her as one of the best players to come through, I think absolutely you do, and you would also classify her as one of the hardest workers to ever come through. I think that speaks volumes of her character and what she was willing to put into it and the time she was willing to put in to make herself a better player ever year.”
Murphy’s dedication to soccer came at a cost recently when she stopped playing basketball for Bearden, which went 36-3 last season and won the Class 4A state championship.
And Murphy wasn’t just a member of Bearden’s basketball team. She played a crucial role off the bench, mostly spelling current senior post/forward and Florida State commit Avery Treadwell.
“Unfortunately, I had to quit basketball just because it was way too much for my body to take on if I wanted to do all the extra (soccer) training and lifting,” Murphy said. “I like basketball a lot, but I love soccer, and this is my last season until I get to college, so if I’m going to be at the peak of my level, then I need to be doing soccer as much as possible, and doing basketball is taking time away from that. Cross training is great but this year it’s just very difficult to do that.”
Murphy gave it a try for a couple of weeks before making the decision, practicing basketball from 3:30 p.m. to 6 and then soccer from 7 to 8:30.
“My body couldn’t keep up,” she said.
Radcliffe won’t be surprised if Murphy’s drive lands her early playing time at South Carolina.
“I think she has a goal set for herself that she wants to go into South Carolina and be a starter from Day One,” Radcliffe said. “That’s the Brinley that I’ve known the past four years. She’s never settled for being a Gatorade Player of the Year, being an All-American (two honors she got in 2021). She wants to look and see how she can be better and what her next step is, and I think she wants to be a starter as soon as she steps on the South Carolina campus. I’m excited for her.”
Murphy has a chance to play any position.
Although she played forward all four years at Bearden, she’s a defender in club soccer and can also play the midfield.
“The (South Carolina) coaches told her she can play any of three positions,” Radcliffe said. “She’s versatile, and I think that’s what’s most appealing to them. I’ve asked her several times, ‘Do you have a preference?’ and she always says no.”
Murphy said she just wants to be on the field next fall.
“Originally I was recruited as a forward,” she said, “but then I had to play center back (on defense) for club because we were struggling in the back, and (South Carolina) really liked me back there, and I feel like I am better in the back. Whatever position gets me the most playing time, at the end of the day, I just want to be contributing to the team on the field.”
3 RINGS, 1 MORE GAME
Murphy was a team captain this fall when she won her third state championship ring at Bearden (two soccer, one basketball).
She led more by example than vocally.
“Brinley’s not a personality where she’s going to be yelling at other girls or giving motivational locker room speeches,” Radcliffe said, “but in terms of who you want to represent the team, she absolutely fit that mold in terms of just how hard she works. She never misses a practice. There were several practices where I tried to get her to sit out, and she just didn’t want to.
“When you look at your freshmen and your sophomores that are watching your top player and your Gatorade Player of the Year wanting to practice every day and having that talent, it translates to those younger girls. I think that was a big thing for me is she’s a great role model.”
Murphy increased her goal scoring each season at Bearden.
She missed some games as a freshman in 2019 while playing club soccer in South Carolina but finished with 18 goals and six assists. Bearden lost at Maryville 2-0 in the 2019 state sectionals.
Murphy had 21 goals and 14 assists as a sophomore in 2020 when the Lady Bulldogs (21-2) lost to Franklin 1-0 in the state semifinals.
As a junior, Murphy finished with 30 goals and 11 assists after Bearden (23-0-1) posted a 3-1 victory over Houston in state championship match.
She put up staggering stats against top competition.
“We play a tough schedule,” Radcliffe said. “We played almost every team across the state that was in a state championship across all divisions this year. We played the private schools state champions and runners-up, so we were tested against the best in the state, and she was able to produce in all those games, even with the district that we’re in. The 41 goals this year, when she’s probably the most noticeable name across the state, was massive and unreal.”
Radcliffe will get to coach Murphy one more time during the Dec. 10 High School All-American Game in Panama City, Florida.
Murphy and Barr are among 43 players from across the nation chosen to play in the game.
Another player in the game will be South Carolina commit Reagan Schubach of Hunterdon Central in New Jersey.
“I’m excited to see her there,” Murphy said.
Murphy and Schubach report to South Carolina in mid-June.
“I love my class (at South Carolina),” Murphy said. “Everyone in my class is amazing. I can’t wait to go there and be with them and be a part of the program.”