McClay winding down brilliant soccer career for Lady 'Clones
By Rebecca Pierson
Asst. Sports Editor
With the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones attempting to turn their winning season into district and regional tournament championships, Samantha McClay has reached her own milestone in the opening district game against Sullivan North.
Monday night, McClay reached a total of 121 career goals, which breaks the Region 1 record and places her around fourth place in the state for most goals in a career.
But Samantha has been breaking records all along.
Samantha reached her 100-goal mark on Sept. 15 against the Lady Raiders, then on Sept. 28 the Lady Raiders witnessed another landmark for the senior when Samantha tied for second in the state with most goals scored in a game with six, which broke the Elizabethton High School record in both the girls and the boys programs.
She has also set the Elizabethton High school record for most goals in a single season, but she still has games left in the season.
"She spent a lot of time on her own in the back yard knocking the ball around," said Elizabethton head coach Bill McClay, who is also Samantha's father. "With the older kids around, even here at the high school, she would always go out and try and find a game with them. Before she could drive a car, she was riding her bike around town trying to find a game.
"It has been self motivated as much as anything else. I guess having your dad as a soccer coach is a subtle form of coercion. It is something I have enjoyed and the kids enjoy with their parents too, I guess. It was nothing we ever pushed her into."
She beat out the former Region 1 record holder, Greeneville's Erica Lashomb, who scored 120 goals from 1996 to 1998. She is tied with the fourth-place record holder, Franklin's Jenger Burchett, who totaled 121 goals from 1989-1992. Brooke Binswanger of Hutchinson sits in third in the state with 134. Aline Bernard scored 135 goals at Hume Fogg while Courtney Dunlap holds the state record with 184 at Donelson Christian Academy from 2000-2003.
Dunlap scored seven goals in one game in 2000 when Christian Academy took on Greenbrier. Samantha is tied with Lashomb in the state with her six goals in second, with Lashomb scoring six against Morristown East in 1998.
Samantha scored 84 goals prior to this season, with 26 goals in her freshman year, 31 as a sophomore and 27 goals as a junior. She began playing soccer in fourth grade, but prior to that she had been playing with her father, and with her brother Nathan.
"We played a lot in the backyard," Sam said of her sibling. "Both my dad and Nathan have played with me a lot growing up."
She also has taken eight years of karate and holds a black belt.
"It is definitely an accomplishment," Sam said when she reached the 100-goal career mark earlier in the season. "Not many people have done it."
As a senior, Sam is trying to narrow down where she want to spend the collegiate part of her career. Division II Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., and East Tennessee State University are her main choices. She said is attracted to both schools' academic and soccer programs. She would like to major in broadcasting and would like to be a news anchor, or possibly anchor sports or politics.
She said that Mia Hamm has been the athletic role model but that her faith in Jesus has been the predominate influence throughout her life, along with the love and support of her parents, Bill and Diana.
"My faith gives me a conscience," she said. "It helps me make decisions about my life. I have always been active in the church growing up. "
"It feels good to be the region record holder," she said. "I never really thought that it would happen. It was never a goal of mine to get a state record."
Said Coach McClay about his daughter's records: "That is something that you may not ever really see in the books, but it is something that we are aware of. She has done most of it with someone on her back the whole time. I am pretty happy. She has had some good quality goals. I guess it is finally stating to sink in. There may be others [from this season] out there. There is one that I am aware of, but that is pretty cool."
"The very first year she played, all she did was twirl her hair, so we took her out," he said. "Then she got heavy into karate for a while and earned her adult black belt. Then she started playing soccer again and enjoyed it. She was playing with the Elizabethton Soccer Association here, but it was an all boys team. It then got time for her to get on an all girls team and the only option for that was in Johnson City. That was when she had to make the time commitment, either two or three days of karate, or soccer, plus she was starting high school. She opted for the soccer."
For most Elizabethton soccer fans, Samantha made the best choice. She has left some lasting memories, and a benchmark for the other girls that come up in the program to aspire to.
"She has enjoyed it, excelled at it and we are very proud of her as parents," her father said. "I hope that she is successful and continues to enjoy playing. The big thing is for her to get focused on shat she wants to do beyond that."