Collins Hill’s Paige Hoover (5) pushes the ball forward as North Gwinnett defender Raina Davis (24) applies pressure during a game on March 28. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
Paige Hoover still remembers the moment when she got the call.
She was at a friend’s house on a Saturday morning eating chocolate chip pancakes when her father called.
“My dad said, ‘Where’s your stuff? You’re playing,’” Hoover said.
Hoover, then a freshman at Collins Hill, didn’t think anything about what her father had just said to her.
“I said, ‘Tell Lauren good luck,’” Hoover said. “He was like no, really, she’s hurt. You have to play for her.”
Lauren is Hoover’s older sister and she was injured at the beginning of the 2011 soccer season. That thrust Hoover into the starting lineup for her sister and for the last four years, she’s been a mainstay in the Collins Hill program. The senior has played in more than 60 games, making more than 50 starts during her time at Collins Hill.
“Her passion for the game, just her love to be the best on the field, makes her a good soccer player,” Collins Hill coach Jeff Tinklepaugh said.
Hoover was a standout soccer player as a youth, playing for her club soccer team. But when she got to high school, she didn’t impress Tinklepaugh at tryouts.
“I think initially, in her tryouts that year we had a pretty good group of players,” Tinklepaugh said. “It wasn’t that she was a bad player, there was nothing that stood out above the norm.”
Then when Lauren Hoover was injured, that gave Paige a chance to prove herself in a game-setting.
“We had a need and she got out there and showed us was she was truly capable of doing,” Tinklepaugh said. “I think once she got the opportunity, she did things that made us realize she was the player that was going to help us have success.”
Sitting on the bench to start the season was the motivation Hoover needed. When she got her chance to touch the field, she never let the opportunity slip away.
“I do remember at first I was upset not being able to play with my sister and show what I could do,” Hoover said.
Lauren Hoover eventually came back healthy and the duo helped Collins Hill to the state playoffs that season. Paiger Hoover has continued that playoff run the last two seasons with the Eagles.
Hoover, a Georgia Southern signee with a 3.9 GPA, scored 18 goals and had 12 assists last season to earn second-team all-county honors.
“She makes us dangerous. She controls the field, she’s our playmaker,” Tinklepaugh said.
Hoover has had some of her best games this season. She took over against Chattahoochee to lead the Eagles to a 3-0 victory and did the same in the Region 7-AAAAAA opener against Mill Creek. Collins Hill trailed in the game and Hoover brought the Eagles back for a 3-2 victory in overtime.
“I have definitely become more dynamic, I think,” Hoover said. “I push up a lot more and am more attacking and offensive minded.”
Despite Hoover’s individual success, one thing still haunts her and Collins Hill. The team has lost to the eventual state champion in the state playoffs the last three years.
“It’s frustrating, very very frustrating because I know we have the abilities to continue,” Hoover said. “The odds just have not been in our favor the last three years. I guess it’s not as bad if we lose to the eventual state champions, but it would be nice to win.”
Hoover wants to stop that streak this season and make Collins Hill the school other teams are losing to in the playoffs.
“Someone is going to have say they beat us,” she said.
THE HOOVER FILE
Name: Paige Hoover
School: Collins Hill
Favorite TV show: Modern Family and Pysch
Dream job: Surgeon
Favorite sports team: Chelsea FC
• Scored 18 goals last season to earn second-team all-county honors
• Signed with Georgia Southern and plans to pursue pre-med
• Maintains a 3.9 GPA
• Has started for Collins Hill since her freshman year
• The third of four siblings to play soccer at Collins Hill. Older brother Gregory graduated in 2008, older sister Lauren graduated in 2011, younger brother Brooks is in seventh-grade