Tigers’ Hathaway embraces the expectations
Sara Hathaway knew the expectations — and embraced them.
You can’t play soccer at Northwestern and not be aware of the recent success the program has enjoyed.
Since 2000, the Tigers have an .847 winning percentage, have captured 10 Colonial League Championships, five District 11 Championships, and have appeared in the PIAA state playoffs 12 times.
Hathaway’s desire was to be a part of that tradition.
Her goal was to continue it.
“I definitely followed the high school team when I was growing up,” said Hathaway. “I knew how successful they were.”
Hathaway had always been serious about soccer. But as she was about to enter high school, she decided she needed to take her passion for the sport to the next level.
For her, that meant playing soccer year-round. That meant club teams, indoor and outdoor leagues, strength and conditioning work ... whatever it took.
“I started playing soccer when I was 7-years old,” explained Hathaway. “As I got older, I gradually started increasing the amount of soccer I was playing.”
Maybe it was the excitement created by the 2014 Northwestern team that Hathaway followed as an eighth grader — which had been the most successful team in school history. Maybe it was the reality of knowing that she was finally going to be part of the Tiger program herself. Or maybe it was just a passion to be the best soccer player she could possibly be.
Before her freshman year in high school, Hathaway’s offseason from soccer virtually disappeared.
“The last few years, I’ve probably played soccer 11 to 11 1/2 months a year,” she said. “Normally, I’m playing three or four days a week with my club team and then working on my strength and conditioning two or three days a week.
“It’s a busy schedule. But I love the game.”
Hathaway’s hard work has paid major dividends.
A varsity starter since her freshman year, Hathaway just concluded a junior year that saw her lead Northwestern with 32 goals as the Tigers captured a District 11 Class 2A Championship and advanced to the PIAA semifinals.
That combination of individual and team success earned Hathaway the 2017 Times News Girls Soccer Player of the Year award.
“It’s really a thrill to be recognized for this type of award,” said Hathaway. “There are so many great soccer players in the area, especially on my own team. I couldn’t have won it without the support of my teammates.”
“Soccer is such a team sport. You need everyone contributing to be successful and that’s what our team had this season.”
Nobody contributed more than Hathaway.
“Sara’s year was fantastic,” Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam said. “She was our leading scorer, and almost never came off the field.”
Hathaway’s outstanding campaign didn’t happen by accident.
“At the end of Sara’s sophomore year, she asked me for a list of items she could work on in the offseason,” Bleam said. “ Sara not only wanted to become a stronger individual soccer player, but more importantly, she wanted to learn how to help her team become more successful.
“Sara has a great work ethic. She works hard at every single practice.”
Hathaway’s performance proved that hard work really does pay off.
“I definitely played with more confidence this season,” Hathaway said. “I think a big part of that was because of the work I put in during the offseason.
“I knew what I was capable of doing, and that helped me relax and trust my skills.”
Thanks in large part to Hathaway’s contributions, Northwestern achieved something that only one other team in school history had ever done — winning a pair of state playoff games and advancing the PIAA “Final Four.”
The other Tiger squad to do that was the 2014 team that Hathaway followed as an eighth grader.
“I looked up to a lot of the players on that team and really admired what they accomplished that season,” said Hathaway. “So for us to do some of the same things that team did was very satisfying.
“We had a really special season.”
Northwestern will graduate 10 seniors from this year’s team, many of them starters or key contributors.
“We are losing a lot of really good players,” Hathaway said. “But everyone who is coming back is already working hard.
“We know what’s expected. It’s Northwestern soccer. There is a tradition to uphold.”
Obviously, Hathaway is already embracing next season’s expectations. It’s something she has done successfully her entire career.