The St. Mary's girls' soccer team is performing like a sports car hitting on all cylinders, and Kylie Cleary is the gas pedal.
The junior tallied three goals and three assists in a 9-1 win over Resurrection Christian and then added a goal and an assist in a 5-0 win over Denver Science & Tech to help the Pirates reach the 3A state quarterfinals.
"Kylie has a lot of energy, and it helps drive the team," St. Mary's coach Gregg Braha said. "Since the first day as a freshman until now she has been a girl who never takes a play off. I've never seen somebody who puts forth that high level of effort all the time. She's very special."
On a team loaded with talent, Cleary has been one of its most important pieces. The junior has 21 goals and 17 assists, and is never satisfied and always looking for a way to improve.
The Pirates are the No. 3 seed in the Class 3A state tournament and realize that with eight seniors and eight juniors on the roster, this may be their best shot at a state title since 2010. Nobody on this team has been past the semifinals, something they want to change.
"I get goose bumps thinking about winning the state championship," Cleary said. "I want so bad to help bring the state championship home for the seniors. I feel like we're more ready this year to fight and we won't give up. We have experience, and it's our turn now."
Braha says having Cleary on a team with other great goal scorers such as Emily Loof (32 goals) and Erin Geiger (15 goals) has made the team extremely dangerous, no matter what the competition. While Loof is the senior leader and best scorer, Cleary isn't far behind.
"Kylie's a great team player, and you could say the same about all the rest of the girls on this team because they play for each other," Braha said. "But I think if Kylie played almost anywhere else she'd be the crown jewel of their program. I think if you put her anywhere in the state, she'd shine as the star player. That's how good she is."
Braha says after Cleary's senior season next year she could be a Division-I talent in college. Not only due to her skills, but her constantly high work ethic and thirst to always better herself.
"The coaches are always right, and they know from experience what they're talking about and if I get better I can help out the team," Cleary said. "It's an incredible experience to play with these girls, and to be with them on and off the field. We started out as a really young team a few years ago, and now we've gotten very close and bonded."
Things won't get any easier for the Pirates. On Wednesday, they face No. 6 Coal Ridge - a team which has outscored its two playoff opponents 7-0. With Loof and Cleary leading the way, Braha is confident.
"Offense wins games, and defense wins championships, but it's nice to know we have the ability to score quickly if we get behind," he said. "Having scorers like Kylie and Emily is a big advantage."