Oak Mountain star Kierson McDonald named Alabama’s 2023 Gatorade Player of the Year

Published 11:19 am Friday, June 23, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Kierson McDonald received one more honor for her tremendous season with Oak Mountain by winning the 2023 Gatorade Alabama Girls Soccer Player of the Year award.

The award is one of the most prestigious honors in high school sports. U.S. Women’s National Team players Abby Wambach, Heather O’Reilly, Mallory Swanson and Alyssa Thompson all received a Gatorade state player of the year award, and McDonald looked up to many of them growing up.

“It’s honestly probably one of the biggest awards you can get in high school soccer,” McDonald said. “I was kind of blown away when I actually got it because I’ve seen so many role models get it growing up.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year award is given to the player in the state who best displays academic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character. McDonald has displayed each of these qualities well during her time at Oak Mountain.

While she was a 4.0 student, McDonald was just as dominant on the pitch as she was off of it. The Eagles captain scored 31 goals and found her teammates for 15 assists during her stellar 2023 season.

McDonald was the centerpiece of Oak Mountain’s offense and much of their tactics flowed through her. The Eagles focused on creating pressure on the opposing goal with an aggressive playstyle focused on creating the most chances on goal possible. Her on-ball play both allowed her to create great goal-scoring chances by herself, but it also enabled her to find her teammates with crosses on their own runs to set them up for success while shooting.

Her contributions fueled Oak Mountain to another phenomenal season where the Eagles only lost four games and reached the Class 7A Final Four while battling through one of the most difficult areas in the state. She said her competitiveness and flexibility to play as a midfielder, forward or defender helped make the Eagles better.

Now, she’ll fulfill a lifelong dream of having a Girls Soccer Player of the Year banner in the Oak Mountain rafters alongside former winners Bailee Hartnett, Toni Payne and Julia Pack.

“When I was younger and I walked into high school, I would look up at the banners and I was like, ‘I want to have a banner up there one day,’” McDonald said. “And so now that I know that that banner is probably going to be up there forever is just a great feeling.”

Off the field, even though she is often busy with soccer and school, McDonald dedicates time to giving back to her community. She and the many of her Oak Mountain teammates volunteered to the rebuilding efforts after a tornado struck Auburn, and she regularly volunteers at the YMCA and with Church of the Highlands’ community service projects.

One of her favorite service opportunities is volunteering with her club, Alabama FC, and work with the future of women’s soccer in Birmingham while giving back to an organization that means a lot to her.

“I volunteer for my club because they’ve done so much for me,” McDonald said. “I love to be able to go out there and work with the younger girls. It’s honestly great, and it gives me something else to do that’s not just soccer and to look forward to.”

In addition to winning Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonald also won the Kiwanis Club Player of the Year and Shelby County Player of the Year. She was named co-captain of the All-Metro First Team and earned spots on the All-State First Team, All-7A Team, All-County First Team and All-Metro Team.

With her state player of the year win, McDonald received a grant to donate to her choice of Gatorade’s partner charities. She is also now a finalist for the 2023 Gatorade National Player of the Year award.

McDonald is committed to the University of Alabama and will take the field for the Crimson Tide this fall after she finishes her club season with Birmingham Legion WFC in the USL W-League this summer.

McDonald is the third Shelby County area player to win Alabama’s Gatorade Player of the Year in the last four years. Former Chelsea player Haley Duca won the 2021 award and Westminster at Oak Mountain alum Morgan White won in 2020.