Charlotte Latin’s Mary Elliott McCabe hit the road the week of June 22, leaving Charlotte behind for her new four-year home in Chapel Hill where she will play soccer for the Tar Heels. But no matter how far away McCabe travels, in a way she’ll never be far away from Latin’s campus.
McCabe began on the Hawks 2015 state championship team that went 17-0-2, but ended up a permanent fixture in the rafters of Belk gym and on the shortest of lists of the all-time greats long-time Latin coach Lee Horton has coached.
And Horton has seen a lot of great players, having coached both the girls and boys soccer teams to 19 state titles at the school since 1985 with an overall career record of 1,052-299-133, which includes five seasons at the Greenfield School in Wilson.
When he looks back on this year’s team, which features a dazzling senior class Horton calls by far the best one he’s ever assembled with North Carolina commits Claudia Dickey and McCabe along with South Carolina recruit Sutton Jones, he can only marvel.
“Mary Elliott and Claudia are two of the best I’ve ever had and I’ve had other really good ones,” Horton said. “Tiffany Rice was an all-American, McCallie Jones was a great player and played at Charleston and my own daughter (Kristin) was a great player. But those two and even Sutton are at the highest level that we’ve ever had here. They are all three right at the top.”
The trio helped Charlotte Latin win four straight NCISAA championships after beating Providence Day 3-1 in the final this year and McCabe, Dickey and fellow senior Ellie Norman produced a four-year record of 73-4-9.
But even as a part of an all-time great class, which also includes star defender Julia Gass, McCabe stood out.
“Mary Elliott is phenomenal in the field,” Horton said. “Her focus and her drive are incredible. I mean that girl is all in. When she steps on the field to play a game, her focus is just at another level than anyone else’s.”
McCabe has certainly flourished since tying for the team lead with 13 goals during her freshman year.
She began playing soccer at age 4 and said it sort of came naturally to her. So did her knack for scoring – and especially so when her teams needed it the most.
During her sophomore season, when she tallied 28 goals, McCabe scored both goals in a 2-1 win in the championship game over Cary Academy.
Last year, she scored 33 times. This year, she added 43 goals, including two in a 3-1 win over Providence Day in the title game.
“The pressure of the big moment doesn’t get to her,” Horton said. “In fact, she thrives on the pressure of the big games and the big moments. She scored in the championship game when we needed her to. She just has this incredible willpower to her that separates her.”
McCabe said the goal scoring prowess is something she’s developed over the years, but her teammates also help.
“I get so many incredible passes from Claudia in the midfield,” she said. “I just had to settle it and place it in the back of the net. But I go the same kind of balls from Sutton, Ellie and Anna Calloway. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time, but the other part is I’ve been training so hard and working on my first touch, settling the long balls and trying to find corners and the back of the net.”
Whatever the formula, nobody has been better at putting the ball in the goal than McCabe.
Her 117 scores rank first in school history. She is a three-time all-NCISAA selection, and the awards keep piling up.
McCabe was named an all-American, a U.S. Soccer Scholar all-American with her 4.14 GPA, to the all-state team for the third time, was recently awarded the prestigious N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year honor and is now the 2018 South Charlotte Weekly Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
She may win the Gatorade National Player of the Year and she’s also at her dream school in Chapel Hill.
“It came together like it was almost the perfect four years,” she said. “I had such incredible time playing with my teammates, coach Horton and the other coaches. I know everyone looks forward to leaving high school, but I was sad to leave. I feel like I left my mark on the school, though, and I’m really proud of that.”
Her N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year banner will forever hang inside the gymnasium and any conversation Horton has about Latin soccer from now on will undoubtedly start with McCabe as the centerpiece.
McCabe said she is enjoying working out with her new Tar Heel teammates. She immediately has credibility from all of her accomplishments, but said she’s excited to begin on a new journey. But she realizes there will forever be a little piece of her at Charlotte Latin.
“I never thought this would happen,” she said. “I’m honored to have beaten (Tiffany Tisdale Rice’s school scoring) record…It’s really awesome to leave my mark on Charlotte Latin during my senior year.
“And I didn’t expect to get the Gatorade Player of the Year either. There are a lot of really, really good players in the state and I think soccer in North Carolina is super competitive, so that was great. It’s similar to the scoring record, but this time I left my mark on North Carolina and I’m excited to get to do that. It adds so much meaning to everything that I’ve been able to accomplish.”