BRANDON - Thursday, defense got its recognition by the coaches of Hillsborough County in selecting the Jose A. Alvarez Award for the most outstanding boys and girls soccer players.
Hillsborough High keeper Emily Fedeles was honored with the award for girls soccer and Berkeley Prep sweeper Kevin Sachs was selected the top boys player.
"I don't make the selection," Alvarez said. "The coaches do that. If you look at the list of winners for 22 years of the award, you will easily see Emily and Kevin are in some talented company."
Fedeles has been a starter for Hillsborough since her freshman season.
This season, she was a major factor in the Terriers' 19-1 finish. In the 20 games, she posted 12 shutouts and gave up a total of just nine goals.
In the regional quarterfinal win over Sickles, she stopped three of four penalty kicks in overtime.
"When you attend an International Baccalaureate program school, you never know who you will have on your team," she said. "In my freshman season, we won our first match 7-0 and lost all other matches. Then this year, we had nine freshmen show up with club experience. We all got along well, played well together and most of all we were friends having fun playing soccer."
Academically, she has a weighted GPA of 5.83 and is in the top one percent of students in the county. Between her academics and soccer she has numerous scholarship offers, but is leaning toward New York University.
Sachs has been a starter for Berkeley since the eighth grade. The first two years, he played forward, defender and midfielder, but as a sophomore he found his spot at sweeper.
Defenders get little recognition, but opponents recognized his red hair when he charged them with his attacking style of defense. He was selected for the all-state team four years running and was the Class 2A, District 13 Player of the year the past two seasons.
"Kevin is certainly one of the main reasons for our success the past few seasons," veteran Berkeley coach Dave Zimmerman said. "He is a tenacious blocker and totally dominant in the air. Another good thing for Berkeley is he helped our younger players to improve."
Sachs has chosen to attend the University of Michigan. His dad, mom and older brother are all Big Blue graduates and he wants to make it unanimous for the family.
"This year's team was exceptional with a national fourth-place ranking and the state championship, but that will not be the only thing I remember about it," Sachs said. "Most teams have cliquess of two or three players, but we were all friends. Freshmen, eighth graders through the senior class, we were a group of friends who respected each other and had fun together playing soccer. I always take time to help the younger guys, but there isn't too much I can teach them. The young guys are good and savvy of the game. I am going to follow the rest of the family and go to U.M., but I'm sure I will see them often."