CANTON -- The passing of the torch took place for the Creekview girls soccer team this year, and Maddi Rhodes was ready for it.
The Lady Grizzlies were looking to replace leadership all over the field after losing four all-county selections -- including two-time Cherokee Tribune Player of the Year Mackenzie Cherry -- but Rhodes was determined to fill that void.
“I just knew I needed to be more of a leader this year,” Rhodes said. “We had a lot of seniors last year, so we knew we were going to need to step up this year. I was trying to be more of someone the rest of the team could look to.”
Along with fellow seniors in defender Allie Cody and forward Channing Pantano, Rhodes said improving her leadership was the main goal she had coming into the season.
Rhodes said she was not the most comfortable taking on a vocal role, so she relied more on improving herself to help her team get better.
“I think it’s about being somebody who can motivate players on and off the field,” Rhodes said. “I think it’s important to lead all the time at practice and in the games. I would lead more by example, I think. I’m just not as vocal some others.”
Rhodes, the 2019 Cherokee Tribune Girls Soccer Player of the Year, was in a good position to lead, too. She served as the central point for the team in the midfield and finished the season with three goals and seven assists.
However, Creekview coach Kerri Schmitt said Rhodes did more on both sides of the field than the numbers indicated.
“Last year, I got to play midfield a little bit,” Rhodes said. “I was way more involved. I liked that, because I got to be everywhere. I was part of almost every play on both sides, so it was definitely cooler.”
Before her move to the midfield, Rhodes started her career as a defender. She had more experience as a midfielder on her club team, but even with that, making the move for the Lady Grizzlies was an adjustment.
“It wasn’t a big adjustment, but I would catch myself, especially at the beginning of the season, staying back on defense instead of attacking,” Rhodes said. “I guess that’s good sometimes, but I got used to it.”
Though her positions became uniform, Rhodes was always aware of the differences between playing for her club team and her school team. She said the school team had a more fun and laid-back atmosphere, but she and her teammates were also motivated to push the county’s longest playoff state streak to three seasons.
“Both of them are hard work and competitive, but playing for the school is more fun,” Rhodes said. “It’s just the kids you grew up around, and you can have a good time. We had a serious goal, though. We wanted to go further than we did, but we knew there was no way we were leaving without going back to the playoffs.”
In August, Rhodes will continue her career in college when she begins the season at Kennesaw State. Her first game with the Owls will come just a week after she arrives on campus, and while she knows it will be a challenge to play right away, she plans on spending her summer preparing for a chance to do so.
“I definitely want to play right away,” Rhodes said. “Our first game is Aug, 13. It’ll be difficult to start playing right away, but I just want to give myself a chance. I love the team, and I can’t wait to go play with them.”