When University Heights Academy junior Grace Pape was growing up, she didn’t take much interest in soccer, but that’s not the case anymore.
“I remember going to my brother and sister’s soccer games and my mom would bring a tent and me not paying attention at all,” she said. “But when I got older and I started to pay more attention, I thought ‘this game is really cool. I want to go play it and I want to be better than my brother and sister.’ Mom and dad were always talking about how great Emily and Christopher were. I was like ‘I want that attention.’”
Pape helped lead the Lady Blazers to their first All “A” Classic State Tournament in several years when she scored late in the semi-state game against Murray.
“I’d have to say beating Murray was my biggest moment,” she said. “Just because of my sister. It was like a family legacy.”
It’s Pape’s drive and ability to perform under pressure that make her this year’s Toyota of Hopkinsville Southern Pennyrile Girls’ Soccer Athlete of the Year.
Coming into the season, UHA was without Kate Cansler due to injury, but Pape knew what she had to do as she’s done it before.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” she said. “I was used to being the lead on a team because on my club team I’m a leader on that team as well. I was used to having to score goals even by playing midfield and having to play both defense and offense. I know how to score so that was really easy for me. It wasn’t much of an adjustment.”
Emily Pape, Grace’s older sister, was a former goalie for the Lady Blazers and Grace said it’s a nice family rivalry.
“I’ve never really felt pressure as much as pride of having to be better than her,” she said. “It’s that family feud I always talk about.”
Pape and the Lady Blazers heard all the talk surrounding their team this season.
No Lilly Strader, no Alli Cundiff and no Kate Cansler, but that didn’t matter to UHA.
They knew they had the ability to get where they wanted to go.
“Being the underdog was very important to our team,” she said. “Hearing all those statements, we still have great players that are underappreciated and that really helped us bond together because everyone was just under-appreciated all together.”
The Blazers’ youth is something Pape is looking forward to next season.
“We’ll have a very young team but in that young team we have a lot of young talent,” she said. “Just getting that young talent used to playing against girls that are 3-4 years older than them. I know when I was a freshman, I came in and it was very different. Even from playing club, I’ve always played up a year. It’s still very different because the girls are 3-4 years stronger than you.
“I feel that when we start our preseason that as a captain of this team, I want to get this team ready to go and already partially conditioned, already hitting the weight room. Just being ready for that physical game.”
All-KNE Girls’ Soccer Team
Grace Pape, UHA
Piper Hancock, UHA
Abby Moss, Hoptown
Sarah Johnston, Hoptown
Emily Hancock, UHA
Anna King, Hoptown
Emma Fleming, County
Keeli Miles, Hoptown
Kaitlyn Cervantes, Fort Campbell
Lainey Burman, UHA
Vy Nguyen, Hoptown
Grasen Givens, Hoptown
Molly Bennett, UHA
Lilly Larkins, County
Ashlyn Parker, UHA
Madison Henderson, Todd
Ashlee Wyatt, Trigg
Autumn Bell, County
Alexus Hendrix, County
Aria De Silva, Fort Campbell
Abbi Bullock, HCA
Emilie Young, HCA