Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The thought is always there for Michael Prunty.
Every time the City High coach watches Grace Brown rocket a free kick towards the goal or makes a move on an opposing player the thought crops back into his mind.
Should the dynamic Brown be playing a more prominent offensive role?
“It is tempting,” Prunty said. “People ask me those questions all the time and I think why not?”
As quickly as the image of Brown setting up a teammate for a scoring opportunity has her coach contemplating a position switch she’ll make a play that reminds Prunty why she is considered one of the top center backs in the state.
“I do have that thought often of her being more offensive,” Prunty said. “Then when you see her make those tackles that save a goal it makes sense.”
Brown has done enough on offense this season to get the attention of more than just her coach.
Her seven goals rank third on the team for Class 3A No. 13 City High (11-5) entering Wednesday’s Region 3 semifinal against Des Moines Roosevelt at 6 p.m. at the University of Iowa Soccer Field.
Just as she has for her entire career, Brown has made her biggest impact on defense.
The senior is the backbone of a City High defense that has posted shutouts in half of its matches and allowed 12 goals all season, tied for eighth fewest in 3A.
“She is so important to us,” City High sophomore goal keeper Naomi Meurice said. “The way she is able to play, because of her, we can play with three in the back. She is very fast, she is good in the air and she is just the leader of everything we do on defense.”
Like every kid that kicks a soccer ball around Brown grew up dreaming of piling up goals and winning games as a forward.
A starter since her freshman season at City High the versatile Brown has thrived in her role as a player that prevents goals rather than scoring them.
She was a first-team all-state selection last season and is among the best players in the state at her position.
That still doesn’t stop Brown from having the occasional urge to insert herself in the City High attack.
“It can get frustrating at times when I can see runs that I want to make but I know I have to stay back,” Brown said. “People will check up on me and if they see that I pick my head up and I look like I’m about to make a run they will just tell me that I have to stay back.”
Brown plays outside back during the club season and expects to remain at that spot in college next season at Nebraska.
Prunty needed Brown to play center back which limits her chances to push up into the attack but has made City High one of the stingiest teams in the state at allowing goals.
“Naturally she will probably play wide in college but for us she has to play through the middle of the field,” Prunty said. “You can tell if you watch there are times that she wants to go and we have to talk to her about the ramifications of those decisions. Now she is a center back and a bad choice or a bad touch and what that means for the team.”
There is a reason Brown has the urge to get into the mix as a scorer, like everything else she does on a soccer field, she’s good at it.
Her career-high seven goals this season gives her 22 for her career to go with 18 assists. Not bad offensive numbers for a player that has spent most of the minutes of her career on her team’s own side of the field.
“I’ve always been a defender but I’m always looking for those opportunities too,” Brown said. “It’s hard for me to be the person that has to stay back and direct everyone where to go sometimes but that’s the position I need to play so I’m fine doing that.”
Brown still gets her offensive chances often in set piece situations.
She takes a majority of the free kicks and corner kicks for the Little Hawks.
“I take all the free kicks and the corners just because I have more experience,” Brown said. “I can hopefully place smarter balls in.”
Brown has plenty of skills that translate to her being successful offensive but even more that make her invaluable as a defender.
“Part of it is she is really tough mentally, she is a competitor and that helps as a defensive stand point,” Prunty said. “She reads the game well and for a defender she is very comfortable on the ball which makes her life easier. She leads a lot of things that we do and she kind of calms the team down and that is the stuff that you can’t see.”
Brown grew up imagining herself playing at Iowa.
She took visits to Drake and Creighton but knew immediately on her visit to Nebraska she had found the right fit.
“Right when I stepped on the campus for my visit I just felt comfortable,” Brown said. “I really enjoyed the coaches, I already knew a couple of girls that are going there and I really enjoyed the atmosphere.”