The first thing someone is likely to notice about Mariah Hobson on a soccer field is her speed.
“I’m pretty fast on the field,” the Princeton sophomore said. “That’s for sure. I can outrun most opponents I go up against.”
That speed makes it difficult for opposing defenses to stop her from scoring.
“Right off the top, her speed is No. 1,” Princeton coach David Gray said. “It’s hard for teams to deal with, especially if they’re playing a high line and have all that space for her to run into behind them. She really takes advantage of that.”
While her speed is certainly helpful, Hobson brings much more to the game.
“She has really good technical skill,” Gray said. “She’s not just about breaking away and scoring with her speed. She’s able to control the ball in tight spaces and create a goal when there doesn’t seem to be much there.”
Hobson also has a scorer’s mentality.
“I’m pretty strong willed so once I see that ball out front of me I’m pretty determined to go get it,” Hobson said. “I am pretty aggressive when I need to be, that’s for sure. I have some good ball handling skills that I could work on, but are still good enough to get me around quite a few players.”
The speed, the technical skills and the mentality added up to a barrage of goals from Hobson in her first high school season.
Hobson scored 32 goals — 12 more than anyone else in the area — and had six assists to help the Tigers to an 11-5 record and the program’s fourth sectional championship.
For all she accomplished this season, Hobson is the 2021 NewsTribune Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“She had a pretty incredible scoring record with 32 goals in (14) games for more than two per game. That’s really high,” Gray said. “In one shortened season, she’s already top 10 among career scorers for Princeton girls soccer.”
As the season wore on, opposing teams began focusing more defensive attention on her to slow down her scoring.
“By the end of the year teams started changing how they defended us to try to take her out,” Gray said. “Sometimes, we struggled to adjust, but overall she was still a threat.
“Even when she wasn’t scoring, she was still creating space for other players. She demanded attention from other teams, which took pressure off some other players. She affected everything in terms of how other teams would set up.”
Hobson said defenses game planning to stop her was “frustrating,” but she adapted as the season went along.
“I became dependent on (my teammates) by the end of the year because I had almost no scoring opportunities, so I passed them the ball and they finished it,” Hobson said. “I was kind of a ball hog at the beginning of the year. My teammates helped me realize it’s a team sport more, so I passed and trusted them more as the season went on. They finished great and I’m really proud of them for that.”
While Hobson credits her teammates for finishing, she also credits them for helping her score so many goals.
“It felt pretty good,” Hobson said about scoring so many goals. “I think I got as many goals as I did because my teammates helped me get there. My goals were pretty easy to score because my teammates did the work.
“Viviana Robledo was always working her butt off. I honestly don’t know how she runs as much as she does. She’s always up and down the field and so was Savanna Birkey. She was always running up and down the field finding opportunities to get me the ball. They trusted I was going to be able to finish it.”
With two more seasons left, Hobson is eyeing the school’s career goal record of 106 set by Jasmine Kunkel.
“Even if she doesn’t get any better, she’s still going to keep scoring, but there’s room for her to grow,” Gray said. “I think one of her greatest assets as a player is her laser focus, but that’s also one of the challenges. I’ve talked to Mariah about this. I think if she could learn to see the bigger picture and the complete game, she’s only going to get better. She’s only a sophomore and this was her first season as a high school player and it was pretty awesome.”