Wednesday, August 6, 2014


BREVARD, N.C. – For Garrett Rhodes, the chance to be close to his family was too good to pass up.

A local product who has never played a soccer game without his father in attendance, Rhodes knew that playing in his hometown, with his family just minutes away, and wearing the uniform of the team he’s seen play countless times was the right path for his college career.

The former Brevard High School team captain and all-conference selection can play both on the back line and in the midfield and is the kind of player with the experience and leadership skills to immediately compete for a spot on the field. The opportunity to play soccer, he admits, was the main draw to Brevard, and his love of campus also strongly affected his choice. But a piece of advice he received during his recruitment helped to solidify his decision to matriculate at his hometown school. “They said that if I couldn’t play soccer that I needed to make sure this was the school I’d want to stay at,” said Rhodes, “and I knew Brevard was the right place for me.”

Blake Phillips, a lanky, soft-spoken striker who found the back of the net once during his only season as Rhodes’ varsity teammate at Brevard High School, fell in love the idea of having an opportunity to continue his playing career after high school graduation, something he felt would be unlikely at the Division I level. Brevard’s familial atmosphere and small class sizes were attractive as he sized up his college options to find the school that best suited his needs.

For Phillips, there was no single aspect of life at Brevard that swayed him to continue his playing career at the college. It was the entire experience—the positive learning environment, the small-school feel, and the chance to play alongside friends and high school teammates—that convinced him to make Brevard his college home. “At the beginning of our season, a couple of my teammates signed with Brevard, and I thought it would be cool if we could all stick together,” Phillips recalled. “I got my coach to email the coaching staff here and they said to come on out.”

One of those teammates, Tucker Baney, has always known that he wants to make a career out of soccer. The Missouri native, transplanted to Brevard seven years ago, doesn’t know if his love of the game will lead to a playing career after college, a job in the front office of a professional soccer team, or even a coaching gig, but he’s certain that he wants to work in the sport that he loves. The effervescent all-conference selection and Blue Devils’ MVP even dipped his (broken) toe into the coaching waters as a high school junior.

“I was playing indoor soccer before the start of my junior season,” Baney reminisced, “and broke my toe when I kicked the ball at the same time as someone on the other team.” He missed all of preseason practice with the injury, but the coaching staff allowed him to become a pseudo-assistant coach for the JV team while he healed. The time on the sidelines allowed him to stay mentally fresh before the start of the season, his first as a varsity player, and sparked a love for coaching that may turn into a career path.

For Baney, there was no question as to which school would gain his commitment. Brevard was the first to offer and he immediately accepted. His lifelong desire to play soccer in college made it an easy choice.

Daniel Taylor was the final domino to fall, signing his letter of intent over the summer to give the Tornados four former Brevard High School standouts in this year’s signing class. A goalkeeper who was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year, Taylor had originally planned to let academics weigh heavily into his college decision. But indecision over his major choice and a lack of clarity about his career path never really dissipated, so he settled upon a new primary criterion in his decision-making process. “I figured that if I didn’t know what I wanted to study, I may as well make a decision based on soccer,” said Taylor. “This is the place that made the most sense.”

Taylor is the most seasoned of the quartet, earning a call-up to the varsity squad as a freshman after a midseason injury left the team a man down. After spending more than three years as a varsity athlete, he’s ready for the new challenge of playing college soccer. He acknowledges that competing as a Division II student-athlete will be new territory for him. “I’ve never experienced anything close to the feeling of playing at this level,” he said. “It’s something I won’t know about until I finally get to step out there for myself.” Never one to back down from a challenge, Taylor is even weighing the idea of competing in two sports—he played two years of varsity tennis in high school and hopes to play for both teams at Brevard.

With the group playing together for so many years at varying levels of interscholastic competition, it was natural for close friendships to form. “I’ve known him for six years and we’ve been really close for four,” said Rhodes of Baney, both of whom describe the other as among their closest friends. “We did chorus and theater together in all four years of high school and had a lot of classes together, especially in the last couple of years. I didn’t have as many with Blake or Daniel, but I consider them to be good friends.”

Rhodes connects with Baney in a Brevard High School soccer game last season

“Blake and I met in eighth grade while playing soccer and we’ve been pretty tight since then,” Baney stated. “We hang out a fair amount outside of school. I also met Daniel through soccer. We’ve all been really good friends since we started playing together.”

“Dan has been my goalie for almost my entire soccer career except for a few years when I was on JV,” Rhodes added. “All four of us are great friends and we get along really well together.”

The four incoming freshmen even have ties to two current Tornados that also came from Brevard High School. Baney lauded the talents of junior goalkeeper Juan Mascaro, Jr. and mentioned how his presence at a Blue Devils’ training session was a motivation to work hard and earn a spot on a college roster. Rhodes and Baney have trained over the summer with former high school teammate and current BC sophomore Caleb Hall to help them prepare for the rigors of a college soccer schedule.

Although it runs counter to expectations, there was no coordinated, Miami Heat-esque plot for the four friends to take their talents to Brevard’s campus together. They’ve been teammates and friends for a number of years, some for over a decade, but all four chose Brevard independently. But despite each settling on Brevard for different reasons, they will all enter their first year of college soccer this fall with the same goal: to help Brevard become a consistent, winning program. And to remain close friends while they do it.