BY DARREN REESE
Hannah Riddle came into the 2012 soccer season with a goal to break Chuckey-Doak's single-season scoring record.
There was only one problem. She couldn't get anyone to tell her what the number actually was.
The coaches kept the historical mark a secret from the senior until late in the season. She ended up shattering it anyway.
Riddle scored five goals on senior night to break the record of 28. She went on to finish the year with 34 goals.
As a result of her accomplishments, she has been named to the Tennessee Sports Writer's Class A/AA All-State team, released this morning.
"I started asking at the first of the season what (the record) was," Riddle said.
"The coaches would tell me it was 20. Then I would get to 20 and they would say it was higher. They kept going higher until finally with two or three games left in the regular season they told me where I actually stood."
Riddle finished the year with the fourth-most goals in the state in Class A/AA, which is a major feat in itself, especially considering she didn't start playing offense until the latter parts of the 2011 season.
At first, it was just an experimental move. Chuckey-Doak head coach Anna Ricker wanted someone fast up top, and decided to try Riddle out at forward for a game.
"It was kind of out of necessity," Ricker said. "You can't win if you don't score, and at that point we were just trying to find something that worked."
"Hannah gives you that drive and desire for 80 minutes. She is as strong and as fast in the final minute as she is the first. That's one of the things that makes her so good."
Up until that point, Riddle had started two-plus seasons as a defender for the Lady Knights. But it didn't take long for her to make her head coach look like a genius.
Riddle scored several goals over the course of the final couple of weeks of the 2011 campaign. She then spent many extra hours in the offseason preparing to play the position full time this year.
"My mom and I would go to the field and she would stand in goal, or she would guard me one-on-one," Riddle said. "Sometimes my little brother would guard me, then sometimes both would guard me."
"It was actually pretty fun."
The hard work paid off as Riddle scored goals in bunches in 2012. In addition to her 34 goals, she also added six assists.
There were only two games all season in which she didn't score a goal. She tallied five against Morristown East and had a four-goal effort against Pigeon Forge.
She was named All-Region for the third straight year and was also tabbed as the Region 1 A/AA Offensive Player of the Year.
It goes to show what one can accomplish when they put their heart to it.
Riddle had never even played soccer before coming to high school - well except on a recreational team in kindergarten. Her mom, Nicole, coached the team back then, and neither one of them knew anything about soccer. In fact, coach Ricker remembers Nicole calling her at one point to ask what a shootout was.
When Riddle first came out for the high school varsity team as a freshman, Ricker gave each player a packet describing the positions on the field and the intricacies of playing each. The daughter and mother took it home and learned it by heart.
And over time, Riddle grew to love soccer just as much as she did the other two sports she excels at - basketball and softball.
"At first, soccer was just something I did for fun," Riddle admitted. "But as I got more into it, I started to take it more serious."
Ricker sometimes wonders how good Riddle could have been if she would have been playing soccer as a primary sport at a younger age. But the coach also feels like the other sports have helped make Riddle what she is - and that's one of the most decorated soccer players to ever come through Chuckey-Doak.
"In just four years, the improvement that Hannah has made has been exponential," Ricker said. "She has the speed, she has the endurance. She is like the Energizer Bunny. She never gets tired, she is just strong and tough."
"She expects nothing but the best from herself, even if it's playing a position she isn't used to playing, such as this year. I promise you, she remembers her misses more than her goals."
Riddle is the first Chuckey-Doak girls' soccer player to be named All-State since 2007. She was recently invited to participate in an elite camp at the University of Tennessee.
She has yet to choose where she will attend college.
"Wherever Hannah goes, that school is getting not only a great athlete, but an excellent student and a wonderful person," Ricker said. "I had her in class and she really does work as hard at that as she does everything else."
"That's not always the case for an athlete. She really is an impressive, well-rounded individual. I can't think of anyone more deserving of being named All-State."