Marty Budner | Hometownlife.com Updated 8:32 p.m. EDT June 26, 2018
Manny Rodrigues will tell you Zoe Gaffney's most redeeming quality is her humility.
When Seaholm's head coach called to inform Gaffney she was voted the 2018 Miss Soccer by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association, the All-State Dream Team player's immediate response was:
"Coach, I've got an amazing group of teammates."
While Gaffney is quick to deflect the credit, the bottom line is the state's soccer coaches directed all the praise right to the Maples standout.
Gaffney is the 34th player to win Miss Soccer, which was established in 1984 to honor the state's premier prep soccer player. The talented senior center midfielder is the 15th Oakland County winner — the second ever from Seaholm. Heather Brown earned Miss Soccer honors in 1995 after leading the Maples to the Class A state championship.
"I was very excited. I was beyond excited," Gaffney said. "I wasn't really expecting it, so to get it was honestly an honor.
"I think with the help of my teammates is one reason why I won the award. They were really easy to work with and they were also very open and listening to when I was trying to help them in their game," she added. "I know the game pretty well and they were listening and I was able to show them what I know about soccer and it was fun."
Rodrigues couldn't have been happier to see his unselfish star recognized with such a significant award.
"Her humility is a strength. There are very few people with that kind of talent who are able to be quite that humble and that's a refreshing sign for me," Rodrigues said. "The biggest thing she has is she's just a student of the game and she's such a smart player.
"From the moment she sees the ball, she's able to see where the next play will develop from. There are very few players who are like that. Everything about her game enables her to be able to make the right ball, the right touch, at the right time.
"I would say her biggest talent on the field is the fact she sees the game ahead of every one else," he added. "As a result, she makes everyone around her better."
Gaffney played three years of varsity soccer at Seaholm and served as a team captain the past two years.
As a sophomore, Gaffney was named Seaholm's best midfielder after earning all-league and all-district honors. As a junior, she garnered all-region and all-state recognition while earning accolades as Seaholm's Most Valuable Player. She scored a dozen goals last year to capture the Golden Boot award as Seaholm's leading scorer.
This past season, Gaffney, blessed with size and strength, was a scoring threat every time on the pitch.
Gaffney finished with a team-high 22 goals and eight assists. She posted a season-high four goals against Farmington and indicated another highlight was scoring twice in a 4-2 win over district rival Birmingham Groves.
In addition, Gaffney helped lead Seaholm to a second straight undefeated regular season at 19-0-3 en route to the OAA White Division championship. Last year, the Maples enjoyed a 12-0-4 regular season.
Seaholm logged a combined 42-4-9 record during Gaffney's three varsity seasons for an impressive .760 winning percentage.
"Our season was amazing. We went undefeated for the second year in a row and, honestly, it just shows how much the team worked together and trusted in each other," Gaffney said. "Great teamwork can really make a team amazing. And I loved playing with these girls the past three years, because I didn't play my freshman year.
"Honestly, high school wouldn't have been the same without them and the season would not have been as fun and exciting as it was," she added.
Gaffney will take her soccer and academic talents to Liberty University in Virginia.
While she had considered a number of other schools, Gaffney felt a special affinity to Liberty since the first time she visited the campus for a soccer camp. She committed to the Flames the summer before her junior year and officially signed a national letter of intent last December.
"It came down to what school I really wanted to go to and who I want to be as a person when I grow up and leave college and not playing soccer anymore," said Gaffney, who will leave July 6 for a freshman summer camp at Liberty. "I just saw Liberty as a great school for me to be the person I want to be and be successful in everything. I'm very excited to get there."
Rodrigues said Gaffney's Miss Soccer award has helped to put Seaholm in the soccer spotlight.
"It is a huge accomplishment, obviously for her, but it's good for Seaholm too," Rodrigues said. "When I started six years ago, I wanted to elevate Seaholm's program. There's only so much I can do. You obviously need the talent.
"I met Zoe as a sophomore. She didn't play as a freshman because she was finishing out her club soccer. From the moment I saw her play, I knew she was one of those players who just had it. She took off each year from a sophomore to junior and now this year, as a senior, she had the stats.
"She is never greedy. I value assists like I do goals, because I don't want people to be greedy. Last year, she had more assists than goals and, this year, she had more goals than assists.
"She is not only a very good player, but she's also an unselfish player," he added. "She's just a joy to be around."
Liberty will soon find that out.
Contact Marty Budner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MartyBudner.
Originally Published 11:02 a.m. EDT June 26, 2018
Updated 8:32 p.m. EDT June 26, 2018