McKinley Brinkerhoff is used to seeing defenders at every turn. It's just part of the game for the leader of the Spanish Fork girls' soccer team's offense.
Still, Brinkerhoff prefers to fly under the radar. Despite leading the state in scoring last season, she's just as happy sharing the spotlight.
But a 42-goal stat line is hard to ignore.
"You know, it's just my team," Brinkerhoff said. "They get the ball to me. They know how to put me in a good position to score."
But that's only part of the story behind Brinkerhoff's staggering stat line. After all, many teams pass the ball well, but not every team boasts a player who averages close to three goals a game.
So what's the secret behind Brinkerhoff's scoring prowess?
"And yeah, I'm also kind of crazy fast," she said. "I can beat most defenders through to the ball. That's my advantage."
There it is.
It's a study of speed and smarts working together. Anyone who has seen Brinkerhoff play knows she can win a foot race to the net. Even better, she's nailed the follow-through.
"She just knows where to place it," senior defender Jessica DeLeo said. "It's something she's worked really hard to perfect that."
More importantly, Brinkerhoff knows when it's time to share the spotlight.
She relied on her teammates when facing double- and triple-team treatment during the 2012 postseason.
"I just have to focus on getting myself open," she said. "If I've got two or three girls on me, I kick it out and trust my teammates."
It's all part of Spanish Fork's ongoing girls' soccer evolution.
As a freshman, Brinkerhoff was around to see the Dons struggle to a 5-16 finish in their last year in Class 4A. They didn't win a region game that season.
The move down to Class 3A the following year came at a perfect time, allowing Brinkerhoff and company to meld and improve as a team without the extreme pressure to perform.
"It gave us a chance to rebuild our structure," DeLeo said. "It got us on our feet."
Spanish Fork exceeded all expectations the next year by reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time in the program's history. The Dons repeated the feat in each of the past two seasons.
The most recent realignment bumped Spanish Fork back up to 4A. The Dons acknowledge it's a new level of competition, but they insist they are ready to face the challenge.
"At this point, we just know how to work together," Brinkerhoff said. "We know each other's strengths and weaknesses."
"We're ready to push ourselves to be better than we've been and to show everyone how far we've come," DeLeo said.
Of course, a big part of the Dons' game plan continues to center around Brinkerhoff, who already has netted four goals in three games. The Dons hope an improved one-touch pass game backed by a defensive focus to keep the ball past midfield will create enough space to let Brinkerhoff's speed take over.
"It's all about giving her as many chances as possible," DeLeo said."We rely on [McKinley], but she's a team player. She trusts us to do the same as her."
"We don't ever rely on just one person," Brinkerhoff said. "I trust my teammates to do exactly what I do."
McKinley Brinkerhoff file
Spanish Fork senior forward
• Scored 42 goals last season, which ranks as the fifth-best performance in state history.
• Helped lead the Dons to the state quarterfinals as a sophomore and junior.