Claudia Dickey didn’t always want to play goalkeeper.
In fact, Dickey, who started playing soccer at age 4, was primarily a forward until seventh grade, when her Charlotte Soccer Academy club coach, Dan Dudley encouraged her to give it a try.
“I hated to play in the goal at first, and I really didn’t want to stay there,” Dickey said recently. “But once I figured how important the position was and started to believe I could do it, I started to change my mind. It’s a rough position and it kills your body with all the things you have to do. But it’s all worth it to me.”
Dickey, now a Charlotte Latin sophomore, earned the starting goalkeeper position from day one as freshman last season. She gave up only two goals in 19 games.
Charlotte Latin went unbeaten (17-0-2) and won the NCISAA 3A state title. Dickey, who was an all-state selection, did not allow a goal in the postseason.
Things just kept getting better for her this off-season. She has committed to play soccer at University of North Carolina. Dickey, 16, says there still a lot to prove. And her Charlotte Latin soccer coach, Lee Horton, helps keep her motivated.
Horton has coached the Latin soccer team for 31 years (winning 16 state titles) and he played goalkeeper for the University of North Carolina (1974-78).
“I remember the day Claudia committed to North Carolina, I told her ‘now the real works begins,’” said Horton, who played for the same North Carolina coach, Anson Dorrance that Dickey will play for. “Claudia is always working on her game from our practices to her club practices to extra goal keeping sessions. She wants to be every bit of the player that people think she is and she is doing it.”
Dickey said “I am very hard on myself and expect to be at my best all the time, so that keeps me motivated in every practice session, in every game. It’s exciting to have had a lot of success this quickly, but I feel like I can be so much better and I have a lot more that I want to accomplish. My focus is just to get better every day and keep pushing myself even when no one else is watching.”
One of the secrets to Dickey’s success is her hatred for giving even one goal. She said she remembers every goal scored on her. She has given up five goals in 25 games for Charlotte Latin, but those five consume her thoughts.
“Last year as a freshman, I would get so down if someone scored on me that I would cry, and it would break me down, and I would think about it for days,” Dickey said. “This year, I just get so mad at myself when I allow a goal because I almost always immediately know what I did wrong. I have to learn to forget the goals and let it go and focus on the game, and I know that. But I think my hatred for getting scored on is also something that drives me to be at my best, too.”
Dickey hopes her efforts helps her team to a second straight NCISAA 3A state championship.
This year’s Latin team is very young. They lost eight senior starters, but return a wealth of talent with all-state sophomore forward, Mary Elliott McCabe (also a University of North Carolina commit) and all-state junior forward, Emily Wise (Auburn commit).
Horton said a key is how his young defense plays. That unit is emerging with defenders like sophomore Julia Gass and freshman Olivia Lowe as well as freshman goalkeeper Ruthie Jones.
Jones, who missed five games while she was training with the U15 USA National team, also will see time in goal for the Hawks and has appeared in two games.
Dickey and Jones also excel on the school’s basketball team. Dickey is the starting point guard, while Jones plays forward. Dickey also gets to play center-forward, with Jones playing goalkeeper.
“It’s awesome to have another goalkeeper like Ruthie who is so talented, and I have the same confidence in Ruthie that I have in myself,” Dickey said. “It’s fun because I get to play in the field and try to score some goals.”
Dickey scored her first career varsity goal in the season-opener against Carmel Christian.
“Scoring a goal was an awesome feeling, even though we were up like 8-0,” Dickey said. “I’ve made a lot of saves, but scoring a goal was a feeling I haven’t had in a while.
“I definitely want to make my mark at Latin and I want it to be special four our whole team. We want to leave a legacy that is not just about winning four state championships, but how hard we worked. We want people to remember this team, this class for a long time.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.