Ashley Finke knows about being part of a good team.
The Charlotte Latin sophomore, 16, is the oldest of five siblings: She and her sister, Caroline, 14; and her three younger brothers, William, 12; Walker, 10; and Michael, 9, form a formidable quintet.
"It's definitely a challenge at times to be a part of such a big family," Finke said. "But being the oldest has made me grow up a little faster and become a leader. I've known from an early age that I had to be a role model, someone my brothers and sister could look up to. I think I used that on the soccer field."
While Finke looked up to a lot of the older Latin players last year as a freshman, she quickly became a standout herself, scoring 20 goals and dishing out eight assists to earn all-CISAA and all-state honors in her first season at the varsity level.
That team went 20-0 (8-0 in CISAA) and won the state championship for the third straight season. The Hawks have won 37 of their last38games in a row and went 52 games without a loss until Charlotte Country Day beat them 2-0 last week.
Finke "did a great job of stepping in and stepping up last year when she was just a freshman," said Charlotte Latin soccer coach Lee Horton, who is responsible for more than 800 wins with boys' and girls' soccer at Latin. "She has a determination that you don't see in a lot of players. She wants to win at everything she does and she gives everything she has."
Finke learned a lot about soccer, winning and Latin tradition from all-state forwards McCallie Jones (now at College of Charleston) and McKay Kirkland (now at Kentucky).
Now Finke must become one of the leaders on a young Hawk team that lost seven starters who accounted for 52 of 94 goals from the 2010 team.
"I told this team right off the bat that they were going to have to establish their own identity," Horton said. "We are going to have to prove ourselves all over again, but we are excited about the challenge."
Finke will not have to do it alone. Junior forward Amma Okwara also returns after leading the team with 16 assists last year. Freshmen Sarah Barry and Cannon Clough and sophomore Meaghan Shimota also are expected to be big parts of the offense.
Junior midfielders Tyler Cooney and Callie Kennedy solidify the midfield, while the back has experienced defenders in seniors Sophia Hilliard and Katherine Peters.
While there is a lot of talent on the Latin team, the Hawks will need to lean on Finke's ability to score. Horton says Finke has a chance to be one of the great players, mainly because of her work ethic.
"Ashley's work ethic is unbelievable," Horton said. "It all starts with her competitiveness. She just seems to want the ball a little more than other people."
Finke's ability to get the ball also has a lot to with her ability to use both feet equally, and she is one of the better players with her head.
Finke already is off to a strong start in her sophomore campaign, with five goals and three assists in four games.
"I always dreamed that I would be able to have the success that I have had for Latin so quickly," Finke said. "But last year really was like a dream come true. To have the opportunity to step in and prove myself as a freshman was a blessing. Now I have to do it again."
While Finke's individual goals are important to her, her main goal is to help get Latin back to the state championship.
"Our goal is always to be in the state championship and win it," Finke said. "We definitely want to live up to the championship tradition that we have established here."