The path to becoming one of the top soccer players in the state wasn't always an easy one for Mattie Hatcher, but Pulaski Academy senior sure had a way of making it look that way.
The 5-foot-4 striker accumulated 139 goals during her first three years with the Lady Bruins before capping off her stellar career with another jaw-dropping season that had her team on the brink of winning their first state title since 2012.
At a glance
SCHOOL Pulaski Academy
NOTEWORTHY Ended the season 56 goals and 31 assists. … Scored 195 goals during her career. … Led the Lady Bruins to the state championship game in three of her four seasons.
"We had nine freshmen, but we were right there at the end," Hatcher said. "Everybody was kind of new to everyone, but we made so much progress as the year went on. We got to the finals but came up a little short."
There was nothing short about Hatcher's efforts for Pulaski Academy.
She finished with 56 goals and 31 assists, which was one of the reasons why she's the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's All-Arkansas Prep girls soccer player of the year. The honor is the second in a row for Hatcher, who led the Lady Bruins to the state championship game in three of the last four seasons.
Hatcher's goal total was three off last season's mark of 59, but eclipsing that tally wasn't at top of her must-do list going into her senior year.
"It was a completely different feeling than what we'd had previously because we were so young," Hatcher said, "but we still had a great year. I just wanted to do everything I could to help the team get back to the finals and to win. That, unfortunately, didn't happen for us."
Behind Hatcher's play and the emergence of its younger players, Pulaski Academy started the year 1-1 but won its next 17 games until Harrison ended that streak with a 5-2 victory in the Class 4A title game. The Lady Bruins also lost to Harrison in the Class 5A final in 2016 and suffered a 2-0 setback to long-time rival Little Rock Christian in last year's finale. But Pulaski Academy Coach Chris Owen credited his standout performer as a big reason why the team was able to advance as far as it did in 2019.
"When you've got a big group of new players coming in, you've got to make sure that you've got a leader on the field," he said. "Mattie was that for us, and the kids enjoyed that and enjoyed playing with her. With her being a senior, she certainly showed those leadership qualities.
"I've pretty much watched her grow and develop in the sport since she was basically able to walk really. I can't say enough about how big her leadership was for us because she truly made an impact."
Owen also noted that it's Hatcher's mindset, competitive spirit and determination that allows her to be successful in whatever she does. That much was evident on the basketball court, where she was a three-time, all-state pick for the Lady Bruins, as well as the soccer field, as she was an all-state four times. But its on the horse track where Hatcher truly believes she's making a difference.
"I love it," said Hatcher, who won a gold medal as an equestrian during the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. "I'm going to Samford (Ala.) University for college, but I'm not going to play soccer or basketball. I'm taking my horses with me, and I'm going to train and ride competitively. Not for the collegiate team, though.
"I've been riding for a long time, and I just love it."
Sports on 06/23/2019
Print Headline: Lady Bruin star stellar once again