Almost from the start of the season, there was a debate raging throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania about the premier girls' soccer player.

Three months after it started, the last impression - and the lasting impression - was that of a polished 18-year-old leading her team to another PIAA state championship.

Meg Verdeur, who burned teams with speed and a competitive streak, led Villa Joseph Marie to the Class AA co-championship title. It was the Jems' eighth Class AA title and ninth overall.

Her team finished 19-2-4 against arguably the state's toughest schedule.

"I hope [past VJM players] don't look at it like I let anyone down," Verdeur, always a perfectionist, said of failing to win the state title outright. "The tradition at our school just stands for itself."

It is a tradition the senior striker didn't have a problem upholding.

For her superlative play, Verdeur is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania girls' soccer player of the year.

The Villanova recruit finished the season with 29 goals and seven assists en route to being named Athletic Association of Catholic Academies co-MVP. The four-year starter tallied 86 career goals.

Not bad for a player who was extremely nervous to play varsity as a freshman.

"I remember my first game," she said. "My coach [Rich Finneyfrock] turns to me. He didn't even remember my name. He said 'Freshman girl.' Everyone was like, 'That's you.' "

Scared, Verdeur walked up to the coach and learned that she would start the season opener. It marked the first time that Finneyfrock started a freshman.

It proved to be a great decision, as Verdeur tallied her first career goal 18 seconds into that first match.

"That just calmed me down," she said, "and gave me the confidence to play."

It also jump-started an illustrious career that concluded with Verdeur's being recognized as the area's best soccer player.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029