Prep Newsmaker: Hermantown's Hoff fills role as goal scorerHermantown junior forward Hailey Hoff leads the Northland in scoring with 18 goals and 13 assists in girls soccer.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
During her sophomore season on the Hermantown girls soccer varsity, Hailey Hoff often was outmuscled off the ball and her shots on goal often went askew.
So during the summer her father, Dale, bought a soccer net and put it in the family’s 10-acre backyard. That’s where Hoff spent much of her summer, practicing her shooting touch.
“I really focused on my placement — where I’m shooting the ball — and my composure, so when I take my shots I don’t get too excited and shoot it over the net,” she said.
That hasn’t been a problem this season. The junior forward leads the Northland in scoring with 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points as second-seeded Hermantown (11-3-2) begins play today in the Section 7A playoffs with a first-round home match against Eveleth-Gilbert Area (0-10-1).
Hawks coach Scott Larson knew he needed someone to step into the scoring void left by the graduation of 20-goal scorer Melissa Madison, but he didn’t think Hoff would fill the role so adroitly.
“I expected her to be good, but I was impressed to see that she was this good and scored this many points,” Larson said. “She works hard and put in a lot of time over the summer. She was bumped off the ball every now and then as a sophomore because she wasn’t as strong as she is now. She’s physically a lot stronger and mentally a lot smarter, and as a result she ends up with quite a few more points and a lot more looks at the goal.”
Hoff plays soccer year-round, going from an indoor league in the winter to playing for Gitchi Gummi in the spring and summer. All that field time made her more prepared for the high school season.
“I feel like I’m more into the groove of being on varsity,” she said. “I’m more used to the play and I’m working hard to pick up my speed and ball-handling skills.”
Teammates notice the improvement from Hoff’s sophomore campaign, when she scored three goals and had five assists.
“Hailey came out of nowhere this year,” senior goalkeeper Courtney Simmons said. “From a goalie’s perspective, I’d hate to have to come upon her because her shots are super accurate and so perfect. You can’t tell where she’s going to shoot — she looks one way and shoots the other way and nails them in the corners.”
Despite her scoring prowess, coach Larson says that hasn’t taken away from Hoff’s overall team-first play.
“Sometimes when you get that many points, you tend to look in the mirror rather than at your teammates,” he said. “But we’ve never had that problem with Hailey; she’s a team player.”
Hoff wasn’t on the field when Hermantown’s 2011 season came to an end in a 2-1 shootout loss to Esko-Carlton in a 7A semifinal. Now, as a proven goal-scorer, she’s assured of being in a shootout lineup if the Hawks’ season comes down to that.
“We don’t want the same outcome as last year, so we’ve taken that into account and been practicing (penalty kicks) every day in practice,” she said. “This could be our year because this team has the heart and wants it so bad. And after last year’s disappointment in the shootout, we want to win it all this year.”