STILLWATER — Brooke Pickett just wants to be one of the group, "holding the rope" like the rest of her cleated schoolmates on the Stillwater girls' soccer team.
"Holding the rope" is a motto the Warriors have made their own. It refers to a collective effort as they strive to continue their superb run that hit overdrive last fall with a state championship appearance. Each player has a role to fill, and for Pickett that is creating offensive chances and scoring goals, something the junior is awfully good at, and something that's brought a lot of attention from Section II and beyond.
"It's flattering, but I'm just a girl from Stillwater," Pickett said as the striker and her teammates prepared for a recent practice. "I'm 15 years old. Sometimes, it's a little embarrassing."
Pickett earned all-state first-team recognition last year when she led the area with 49 goals, and in Stillwater's season-starting win against Cohoes she reached a career milestone by scoring her 99th, 100th and 101st goals. That was among four hat tricks recorded by Pickett in the Warriors' first six games.
"All of the skills aside and the records aside, she's a wonderful person with a wonderful personality," Stillwater coach Christine Ihnatolya said. "She is well-liked for a lot of reasons."
Being humble and being a good teammate — those things will score you points, too.
"Without my teammates, I wouldn't be able to do it," Pickett said. "It's everyone together."
"She defines the team player," Ihnatolya said. "She is a coach's dream. Just watch the way she plays with her teammates."
All but sweeper Faith Sheehan has returned to a Stillwater team that last year finished 20-3 after a 3-2 loss to Allegany-Limestone in the state Class C title game. The Warriors are unbeaten in their six games so far this season.
"Our chemistry is real good," Pickett said. "Faith was our only senior and our building block, and without her we weren't sure if we were going to fall apart, but so far it's been real good. Cassidy [Sheehan] and Keelyn [Peacock] have stepped up vocally, but everyone has found a way to be a leader."
Sheehan, a senior midfielder, and Peacock, a sophomore defender, are team captains along with Pickett, who boosted her goal total to 15 this fall after Wednesday's hat trick against Saratoga Central Catholic.
"I'm not a big talker," said Pickett, who is in her fourth varsity soccer season. "I lead by the way I practice and play. I lead by example."
It's a good one. Pickett is a standout in the classroom (with plans to become a pediatric dentist), as well as a three-sport participant.
"She puts in the work in the offseason," Ihnatolya said. "She strength-trains. She plays on an elite team [Capital United]. She works on specific skills. Because of those things, she's consistently getting stronger and faster and better. She's a girl the younger ones admire."
Pickett scored all four goals when Stillwater beat Schoharie 4-2 for the 2017 Section II Class C title, and generated two goals in ovetime and three in all when the Warriors clipped Notre Dame-Elmira 4-2 in the state semifinals.
"I think that was probably our best game as a team, when we got to the championship," Pickett said. "We do this thing called 'hold the rope,' and we all have little ropes on our shoes and on our backpacks. We all held the rope in that game. It was definitely a tough win."
Stillwater had never played for a state title before last year's defeat. Getting back and coming out on top is the last of many things on Stillwater's to-do list.
"I think we'll get there. I hope. We definitely have the talent," Pickett said. "What we have to do is keep the end goal in mind and not lose track as the season goes on. That means we have to keep working and working and give 100 percent, not 90 percent. Keep the goal in mind, and we'll be OK."