Success is a ladder, and North Platte’s Gracie Haneborg isn’t one to stop climbing after a few steps.
This season’s Telegraph Player of the Year outplayed her freshman self in virtually all facets of the game, setting the bar higher in Lady Dawgs soccer moving forward.
After an extraordinary freshman season decorated with 16 goals and 12 assists for a total of 44 points, Haneborg shattered that mark with an even stronger sophomore campaign — one that served as a catalyst for the Lady Dawgs’ best season in program history.
"I pushed myself even more than I did my freshman year," Haneborg said. "I knew I had to be more of a leader this year, and even coach (Sarah) Kaminski told me. She pulled me, Callie (Haneborg) and Abbie (Hedgecock) aside and we had a talk about how we needed to step up, get our team together and get back to state and win."
And Haneborg and company delivered on that promise, helping North Platte finish the season with an 18-3 record that included their first state tournament win in 14 years — a milestone that had only been achieved once in school history — before falling to Class B runner-up Omaha Skutt Catholic in the semis.
"I sort of expected us to go further than last year, so when we did I was happy with it," Haneborg said. "Of course it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but we definitely learned from it and want to hopefully get back there and get to the championship next year."
That confidence and collective success for the Lady Dawgs this year, much like last season’s 12-4 record, Class A district title and a first state tournament birth in six years, is unmistakably linked to their superstar’s growing impact on the field.
Haneborg finished this season tied for No. 2 in all-class points and No. 1 in assists after accumulating 71 total points on 26 goals and 19 assists — an individual mark that helped turn the Lady Dawgs into one of the top offensive powers in the state.
But much like last season, she wasn’t the only Bulldog, or Haneborg sitting among the top 15 all-class leaders in points. Junior forward Callie Haneborg finished the season No. 6 in Class B and No. 12 all-class in points, chipping in 50 total points on 22 goals and six assists for the Lady Dawgs.
Alongside Callie for a second season, the Haneborg duo combined for 48 goals and 25 assists of the Buldogs’ 79 goals in 21 games.
"Callie and I had more of a stronger connection this year," Haneborg said. "Last year we didn’t really know what to expect, but now it’s different. We know what can happen next if we continue to play hard, control the field and the ball. We’re definitely chasing a championship."
But the stakes will be higher next season when the Lady Dawgs return to Class A after just one season in Class B, a decision made by the NSAA based on enrollment numbers following the 2018-19 school year.
"We just need to be more aggressive next season," Haneborg said. "Class B had good teams, but we played more scrappy, smaller teams that we knew we could beat. Now we’re working on sticking with Class A teams and what can we do different than their play-style to beat them."
As for the Haneborg tandem, next season will mark their final duet in the Bulldog colors.
Haneborg, however, added that she’s unwilling to let Callie finish her decorated prep career without a crack at a state title.
"That’s always been our goal," Haneborg said. "Callie and I have always played together and dreamed about winning it together. Us two and Rachel (Hatch) have talked about it a lot as best friends, and we know we have to lead this team. It’ll be amazing if we can make it happen."