Heading into Wednesday nights N.C. 3A girls soccer first-round playoff game, Charlotte Catholics Jane Cline had scored 59 goals for the season.
According to a national high school website, MaxPreps, Cline was leading the nation in scoring, two goals ahead of another N.C. star, Clayton High sophomore Emily Truelove.
You know what, Charlotte Catholic coach Gary Hoilett said Wednesday morning, Jane lives to put the ball in the back of the net. Lets get that out of the way. Thats her thing. Shes got good touch, and shes got incredible (speed) and just this ability to go by her defender. Shes just a knack for it.
And heres the thing; before Cline came to Charlotte Catholic, she had never played offense before. Think about that when I tell you her 169 career goals are tied for ninth in state history.
I started playing when I was five, Cline said. I had always played basketball, too, but when I got to high school, my parents told me I had to pick one. I had played club my entire life so I picked soccer.
Cline, an Appalachian State recruit, had always played defense growing up, but when she came to tryouts as a freshman four years ago, N.C. powerhouse Catholic was stacked with returning starters and seniors at her position. Because shed always been fast, her father suggested Cline try out for forward, on offense.
No one knew who she was, Hoilett said. We had second- and third-year starters in the backfield (on defense) and this freshman walks on the field. In the first 15 minutes, shed blown by a bunch of girls who were experienced and put away three balls.
Cline was the only freshman to make Catholics varsity four years ago. She scored three goals in the first 30 minutes of her first game.
Hoilett knew he had something special.
She hasnt done anything throughout her career to make him change his mind.
You can always make an argument that maybe there is somebody with a better first touch or someone more skilled in another area, Hoilett said, but look at all the pieces coming together, and she just has a lot more of those than a lot of people. She demands the ball. She wants the responsibility of trying to get the team to the next level. Shes an extremely confident player.
In Clines sophomore year, when she was named to the All-Observer first team, Charlotte Catholic beat Cardinal Gibbons 2-1 in the N.C. 3A state championship game. Hoilett said Cline scored both goals.
Last season, when Cline scored 42 goals and was named the Observers player of the year, she again led Catholic to the state finals. The Cougars lost 2-1 to Jacksonville White Oak.
Guess who scored for Catholic.
I just go out there and try my hardest and do whatever I can, Cline said. If they try to mark me, Ill try to pass the ball, get open and get the ball back.
This season, Cline broke Kerry Hughes 15-year-old single-season school record of 55 goals and Hughes career goals mark of 161 that had lasted just as long. Cline is only the ninth player in N.C. history to score seven goals in a game, which she did this season.
Cline is doing all this while leading a team that returned three starters. Cline is among three seniors, along with Ana Waits and Megan Deschenes.
And despite Clines record-setting numbers, Catholic still has three other double figure scorers junior Lindsey Tully (14 goals); Waits (12); and sophomore Lizzie Spratt (11).
But still, the Cougars know who their first option is.
Shes a true striker in every sense of the word, Hough coach David Smith said of Cline. Shes pretty quick and she has a knack for scoring. We saw them play (state power) Jacksonville earlier this year and they contained her for a lot of the game, but she still scored two goals, and the last one gave them a 3-3 tie.
Catholic began the playoffs Wednesday with a 16-2-3 record and a No. 2 ranking in the N.C. 3A coaches poll. Cline hopes the postseason journey ends where her past two have landed: in the state finals.
I definitely want to make it back, she said. I think were ready but itll be a hard fight to make it back. We lost our goalie from last year and she saved us a bunch and we lost 11 seniors. This team we have now is really young and weve been trying to prepare them, and I hope we can make it.
So long as shes got the ball, Cline figures Catholic has a chance.
Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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