In its 32nd year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, today announced Jake LaBranche of Nauset Regional High School as its 2016-17 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year. LaBranche is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year to be chosen from Nauset Regional High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes LaBranche as Massachusetts’ best high school boys soccer player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year award to be announced in June, LaBranche joins an elite alumni association of past state soccer award-winners, including Alexi Lalas (1987-88, Cranbrook HS, Mich.), Steve Cherundolo (1996-97, Mt. Carmel HS, Calif.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Heather O’Reilly (2001-02, 2002-03, East Brunswick HS, N.J.), Matt Besler (2004-04, Blue Valley West HS, Kans.), Jack Harrison (2013-14, Berkshire HS, Mass.), Mallory Pugh (2014-15, Mountain Vista HS, Colo.).
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound senior defensive center midfielder led the Warriors to a 23-0 record and the Division 2 Eastern Massachusetts tournament title this past season. LaBranche scored 10 goals and passed for 15 assists, serving as an integral part of a defense that allowed just one goal all season. A two-time All-State honoree and a two-time Atlantic Coast League Player of the Year, he was also an All-American selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
An employee at a pizza restaurant in Eastham, LaBranche has volunteered locally as a youth soccer coach. “Jake posed so many problems for opposing defenses,” said Evan Botting, head coach of Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School. “The combination of physical traits, mental awareness and skill that Jake has makes him truly special.”
LaBranche has maintained a weighted 4.36 GPA in the classroom. He has made a verbal commitment to attend Middlebury College, where he will play soccer, beginning this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport. LaBranche joins recent Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Players of the Year Luca Levee (2015-16, Milton Academy), Jack Harrison (2014-15 & 2013-14, Berkshire School), Mac Steeves (2012-13, Needham High School), Oliver White (2011-12, Noble & Greenough School), Cole DeNormandie (2010–11, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School), Leon Brown (2009-10, The Roxbury Latin School), Charlie Rugg (2008–09, The Rivers School), Jan Trnka-Amrhein (2007-08, Noble and Greenough School), and Ben Slingerland (2006-07, St. John's Prep School) among the state’s list of former award winners.
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Jake will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every Gatorade Player of the Year state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. 12 spotlight grants – one for each sport – will be announced throughout the year.
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