POWDER SPRINGS -- Erin Carleton had no desire to play soccer when she was 6-years-old.
She wanted to be a dancer.
Her older brother Andrew, who is now playing professionally for Atlanta United, had influence and was able to convince her that soccer was the way to go.
The Hillgrove junior midfielder, who has committed to Virginia Tech, grew up following in his footsteps, She followed him in playing for the Cobb Futbol Club, now Southern Soccer Academy, and emulated his style of play.
Carleton said her willingness to be creative on the field makes up for her lack of speed and physicality. Like her brother, she’s more of a finesse player who focuses on touch. She can both score and set up goals, even though she prefers the latter.
“Watching (Andrew) really influenced me on how I play and how I think,” Carleton said. “We have like a similar style.”
The younger Carleton finished her junior season with 21 goals and 16 assists in leading Hillgrove to a 15-4-1 overall record and a trip to the Class AAAAAAA state quarterfinals. For her efforts, she is the 2019 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
She had four game-winning goals -- against Allatoona, McEachern, Kennesaw Mountain and Carrollton -- and three game-winning assists -- against Pebblebrook, Marietta and Walton.
“She is the kind of player that not only creates opportunities for herself but opportunities from a lot of people,” Hillgrove coach Shannon Center said. “She also has such great vision and is creative on the ball. She’s so creative with the ball that it opens up a lot of opportunities for the other girls. She does a great job directing on the field as well. She’s vocal and helps direct and organize the other girls on the field.”
Other season highlights include Carleton scoring the insurance goal that lifted Hillgrove to a 2-0 win over Newnan in the playoff opener. She had a goal and an assist to help the Lady Hawks win Region 3AAAAAAA with a 2-0 win over Marietta. She also accounted for all four goals in Hillgrove’s shutout over region rival Kennesaw Mountain.
“She is very much a finesse player,” Center said. “You really have a hard time taking options away from her. She can dribble and pass it in to other people or she could finish herself.”
The game Carleton will remember the most came at the beginning of the season against defending state champion Parkview. Carleton scored twice in that first half to give Hillgrove a two-goal lead before Parkview rallied to win 3-2.
Although the loss stung, Carleton said many were not expecting the game to be close, and the performances of the Lady Hawks helped set the tone for the season.
“It was supposed to be a really hard game,” Carleton said. “It was the game that brought us together.”
Although she is going to be a senior in the fall, she played her last season for Hillgrove.
She plans to graduate in December and head to Virginia Tech to begin her next chapter.
Just two years ago, she dreamed of playing soccer in California. Those plans changed after making a trip to Blacksburg at the beginning of her sophomore year.
“The other schools, I really liked them a lot, but I wasn’t able to see myself being there,” Carleton said. “I went to Virginia Tech and really loved it. All the coaches, especially, were a big factor. The campus, everything, I’m just so excited.”
Girls Soccer All-County List
Lindsey Bell Hillgrove So. GK
Kenzie Bonham Harrison F Sr.
Karsen Brantley Lassiter F Sr.
Ashley Burns KMHS F Jr.
Erin Carleton Hillgrove M Sr.
Mackenzie Ellis Lassiter D Jr.
Amaya Evans Hillgrove F Sr.
Hal Hershfelt Lassiter M Sr.
Brooke Hart Hillgrove F Jr.
Erin Miller Allatoona F Sr.
Averi Visage Harrison M Sr.
Taylor Boyle Harrison D Sr.
Cami Brown Campbell D Jr.
Skarleth Cardenas Pebblebrook F Jr.
Hannah Casey Walton M Sr.
Katey Derkay Allatoona M Sr.
Maria Howell Campbell M Sr.
Lindsay Mathis Harrison GK Sr.
Savannah Placie KMHS D Sr.
Sophie Schweizer KMHS M Jr.
Kate Richardson Lassiter D Sr.
Taylor Scarpinato Harrison D Jr.
Campbell: Kennedy Crowder, Ashi Kathuria, Nicole Knight,Taylor Oden, Addison Seaborn; Harrison: Briana Colangero; KMHS: Kendall Colenbaugh, Kyra Pfiefer; Lassiter: Maddy Higgins, Courtney, Link; Pebblebrook: Jennifer Aquino, Isbela Garcia, Esmaralda Hernandez, Christina Riles, Livanna Romero, Emma Solis, Marleny Solis; Walton: Lindsay Jensen.