At a school with a rich 162-year history, it would be misguided at best for any student-athlete at The Hill School to think he or she could take aim at the record books.
Aspirations are one thing, expectations an entirely other.
Like so many other things this fall, Colten Habecker struck the balance just right.
Through that century and a half, few student-athletes were any match for the record books. In Habecker's senior season the record books were no match for him.
Habecker's season-long hot streak resulted in a stunning 34 goals — 12 more than the previous single-season record set by 2009 graduate Malcolm LeBourne — that boosted the Blues to never-before-reached heights with a third-straight Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship and the school's first-ever Pa. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship, finally getting the best of Haverford School in their third consecutive attempt in the title game.
In the process of his brilliant season, which also included 10 assists, Habecker surpassed the Hill's career scoring mark, his 60 goals overtaking the 51 set by 1990 graduate Jamie Slough, who was a multi-year, two-sport All-America at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Douglassville native's superb run of form earned numerous postseason honors including selection to the High School Soccer All-American Game, MAPL Player of the Year honors, a third-straight All-MAPL first team recognition, a finalist for the Gatorade Pennsylvania Soccer Player of the Year and The Mercury's All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Hopes met reality for Habecker in his final high school season.
"I had dreams about making history with soccer but I had never really thought about what it would be like to be in this position I am now,' he said. "To have my name be on a ball that will go in the trophy room. ... I never really could fathom what it would be like to be in the position I'm in.'
Taking aim on The Hill's single-season record was a good start to helping the Blues achieve their goals.
"Coming into my senior season I had a couple personal goals that I hoped to reach (such as) breaking the scoring record, but I had no idea I was close to the career scoring record,' he said.
"I wanted to try to see how close I could get to the 22 goals set by Malcolm (LeBourne) a couple of years ago. But really I just wanted to be able to help the team to win every game that we could. If that meant me scoring a bunch of goals I wanted to do that, assists, anything, I just wanted to make sure the team could have the most successful season it could.'
In Habecker's three seasons as a starter, The Hill achieved unequaled success. The team went 51-8-2 during that stretch including this fall's 19-1 mark, equaling the school's top mark for wins in a season. The Blues ended the season as co-No. 1 in the studentsports.com Prep School poll along with Berkshire School (Sheffield, Mass.).
According to Hill coach Chris Drowne, it is Habecker's drive toward becoming the best player he can be that sets him apart.
"Every year he's added something to his game and every week he gets better in every phase. He trains harder when no one's watching than most people do when there are,' Drowne said. "Success in the match before doesn't make him the least bit content or complacent, he's always working to be better.'
Habecker's form left Drowne more confident in his team's ability to score than ever before.
"In soccer you should never count on goals coming,' Drowne said. "We almost never trailed in a match — we only trailed three matches all year — that's really because Colten was going to convert the opportunities. A near-miss was never going to happen with him.'
Habecker's versatility and makeup — the prototypical blend of speed and size (he stands 6-foot-1), ability to carry the ball and hold off defenders, shoot with both feet and ably score on headers — made him a threat however the chances came.
Habecker felt he underachieved in his junior season and spent the offseason trying to prevent a repeat of that feeling.
"In the beginning of the season — I missed the first game of the season with a concussion (suffered during a preseason scrimmage) — at first I was pretty down on myself. Missing games is basically missing opportunities to score,' he said.
"Once I got back on the field with my teammates, (fellow striker) Mark Forrest and I really gelled and the midfielders we combined with, we just had an amazing chemistry. Once I got in my groove the first couple of games back and I started to score a couple of goals I felt like if I could keep it going from there and get better and better every practice that would translate into the games.'
His dynamic with strike partner Forrest was a key reason for Hill's sweeping success. The two grew up as neighbors in Douglassville and have followed similar paths in soccer over the past decade. Forrest, a junior, had one of the best scoring records (20 goals, 13 assists) in Hill program history, himself just two goals shy of the previous single-season record this season.
It was that kind of year for the Blues as evidenced by their Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship three-peat, capped by a convincing 4-0 victory over archrival Lawrenceville with Habecker netting his team's second goal.
"As a forward it's always about hard work,' Habecker said. "My dad (Kurt, who played collegiately at N.C. State in the late 1980s) told me when I was younger that being a forward is one of the toughest positions because you're always getting beat up, your ankles, knees get kicked, you're going to be shoved, be clipped when you're trying to get a header — you have to have the hard work and the ability to keep being strong.'
But for all the dominance of the regular season, Habecker and his classmates would have viewed the season with some regret if they couldn't get over the hump and win the PAISAA Tournament. The first two seasons of the prep school postseason tournament saw Hill reach the final only to be denied by Haverford School.
Both teams did their part to set up the rematch — Habecker scoring two goals apiece in a 2-0 win over Friends Central in the quarterfinals and a 5-0 win over Shipley School in the semifinals.
The match lived up to its billing, Haverford taking the lead in the first half before Hill earned a penalty kick in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
There was no doubt who would take the kick.
"Normally people are crossing their fingers (on a penalty kick), but with Colten at the spot there were people talking about how we are going to play the rest of the game,' Drowne said.
After Habecker converted just as Drowne knew he would, the deadlock couldn't be broken through regulation and overtime leading to penalty kicks.
"We didn't even have to give the order because they knew who was going first,' Drowne said. "It's not easy to make two penalties on the same keeper. Doing it twice against the same keeper just shows a mental confidence.'
Habecker buried his second PK of the game before his teammates followed suit and goalkeeper Shaun Quinn impressively saved two of the Fords' three takes to clinch the PAISAA championship, 4-1 in penalty kicks.
"I will always remember Shaun coming up big, everybody making their penalty kicks successfully, just the whole experience of beating them finally. And for it to be our senior year, there was no better time to go out with a victory like that,' Habecker said.
"Winning states in and of itself is something I'll never forget. We've made our own rivalry with Haverford in soccer (through the PAISAA tournament) losing the first two times and finally squeaking out a victory in penalties against them. Everything from the atmosphere before during and after the game, the celebration is something I'll never forget.'
It was extremely special for Habecker and his Hill and Lehigh Valley United teammates Quinn and defender Wyatt Fabian, last year's All-Area Player of the Year. The three were together in March as part of the Region I representatives for the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
With many college coaches in attendance, the staff at Southern Methodist University, located in Dallas, took notice of Habecker.
It led to Habecker verbally committing to Division I SMU, where he will attend in the fall.
After his latest national-level experience — playing alongside 41 of the other top players in the nation in the All-American game — he can move on to the next level with confidence from a superb season at The Hill.
History is on his side.