Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Emily Hilliard

emily headshotA recent stroll around the Stanford University campus was enough to remind Emily Hilliard how badly she wanted to follow in her brother’s footsteps and play collegiate soccer.
The rising Weddington High School junior spent the last several days in Stanford, Calif., with her brother, Tomas – a recent graduate of Providence Day who had starred on the Charger team as well as for his Charlotte Soccer Academy squad – who will suit up for Stanford in the fall.
But Hilliard still has two years left at Weddington and more work to do before she reaches her ultimate goal of playing in college.
“I respect my brother so much,” she said. “I look at him and the way he worked hard to play in college and I know that’s something I want to do. I really look up to him.”
While Hilliard looks up to her brother, local student-athletes are looking up to her. Hilliard was a major force at midfield on the dominant Warrior squad, which went 20-3-1 this season and finished as the Class 3A state runners-up, as she scored 20 goals with 11 assists in just 15 games. The Southern Carolinas Conference Player of the Year was also an all-conference, all-region and all-state selection for the second year in a row, and is now the 2014 Union County Weekly Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“The recognition has honestly come as a shock,” the humble star said. “I didn’t expect to be voted the conference player of the year, especially with so many great soccer players in our area. But it’s been really incredible and encouraging.”
Hilliard, who Warrior coach Powell Williams described as the “heart and soul” of this year’s team, missed a few games due to club tournaments but had undeniable talent that helped dictate the Warriors successful run this season.
A versatile midfielder, Williams said Hilliard will be called upon to lead a young, talented core of players who hope to continue the Warriors’ recent success. Hilliard’s knack for finding the back of the net hasn’t affected her ability to facilitate for her teammates, as evidenced by her balanced and impressive statistics from an abbreviated season. And perhaps what’s most impressive is that Hilliard isn’t just outstanding on the soccer field – she’s just as successful in the classroom.
Juggling school soccer with her Elite Club National League team, where she’s receiving Division I interest, Hilliard did it all while balancing seven honors courses, an AP class, serving as the sophomore class vice-president and maintaining a 4.83 GPA to rank fourth in her class of 365 students. She’s also fluent in Spanish and is a dual-citizen of the United States and Costa Rica.
“It’s almost like a job,” she said of her busy lifestyle. “(But) if you really love something, you don’t consider it work. That’s the way I feel about soccer. I love it so much and I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s not work for me.”
Much due to Hilliard’s contributions, the Warriors finished as the No. 2 ranked team in the state according to and outscored opponents 37-5 before falling to Chapel Hill in the state title game, 2-1, in a crushing defeat as the Tigers scored the game winning goal in the final seconds of regulation.
The loss hasn’t put an end to Hilliard’s mission.
“I’m going to win a state championship for Coach Williams before I graduate,” she said. “I wanted to win this one so badly for him, but it’ll happen before I leave. He’s like a father figure to us and he’s really the best coach in the world. That’s why I want to win so badly and it’s going to drive me next year.”
With two years left for Hilliard and returning Warrior stars like rising junior Maggie Wadsworth (31 goals, 24 assists), sophomore Olivia Odle (23 goals, 18 assists), goalkeeper Taylor Schuester and defenders Caroline Horne, Cyan Mercer and Gabby Cormier, it’s likely the Warriors will continue their run of success.
“Right now, I’m focused on school and soccer,” Hilliard said. “That’s where my mind is.”
Hilliard knows that if she keeps practicing and working hard on the field and in the classroom, her time to play in college like her brother will come. So she’s making the most of her two years left as a Warrior.
“I don’t want to leave high school without having fun and enjoying every minute of it,” she said. “I want to leave with no regrets.”

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Hannah Chronis

About Hannah Chronis

Hannah is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and covers news in her hometown of south Charlotte. She joined the Carolina Weekly family in September 2013 and became Managing Editor of South Charlotte Weekly in January 2015. Follow her on twitter @hannah4scw

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