Charlotte Hare has been a starting midfielder for Hopewell Valley Central High School soccer since her freshman year. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

If anyone “nose” about adversity, it’s Charlotte Hare.

Yes, pun totally intended.

But it sums up just how gritty the Hopewell Valley Central High senior is as she enters her final year on the girls’ varsity soccer team. A starter since her freshman year, the midfielder is key to what should be a formidable team this season.

“Charlotte is someone we can build around, a stable player,” coach John McGinley said. “She’s gonna be tough, physical and she’s gotta step up (offensively) when we need her to.”

There is no doubting Hare’s toughness, as she has broken her nose a whopping five times in the past four years, but still continues to play soccer and basketball while on the mend.

“I first broke it in eighth grade,” she said. “That was probably the worst, I had to get surgery on it. It was during soccer, I was running behind a girl, she was swinging her arms back and forth and I took an elbow straight in the nose. It was so painful. I got the fracture fixed. But it was so sensitive, that the slightest hit fractures it again.”

Hare has broken it three times in soccer and twice in basketball, including last year when she had to wear a facemask on the hardwood.

“I broke it five games in, and wearing the mask is the worst thing ever,” she said, adding with a laugh. “I didn’t wear it some games…but I was supposed to.”

She is mask free this fall and ready to help lead Hopewell to a potentially big season. The ’Dawgs are coming off a 17-5-2 campaign in which they reached the Central Jersey Group III championship game and the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

Hopewell returns two solid defenders in Nicolette Evich, a three-year starter, and Carly Sison, who McGinley feels is one of the top one-v-one defenders in the Colonial Valley Conference. There should be two goalies to count on, including returnee Braylee Walters and incoming freshman Lucy Fleming. Hare remains as a holding midfielder and is joined by returnees Nicola Mosionek (15 goals, 10 assists) and Emily Cooke (4 G, 4 A), while a veteran front line features Emily DeNiro (8 G, 5 A), Mea Allex (3 G, 3 A) and Sarah Yancey (6 G, 1 A).

“We’re optimistic,” McGinley said. “We feel good. Obviously it takes time to jell and work through it but we feel pretty good about the kids we have coming back. But it’s early.”

But not too early for the players to be enthused.

“I’m super excited,” Hare said. “We have some great talent and some incoming people bringing talent to the team.”

And Charlotte is there to help guide the younger players.

“I definitely like leading by example,” she said. “But there are some times you need to step up and help people out (verbally). So sometimes I need to do that.”

Playing with injury certainly helps set a tone.

“It’s become just like “Oh, Charlotte broke her nose again,’” McGinley said. “But she keeps playing through it. She’s really tough that way. For us to have someone like that who’s a good player but also willing to play through stuff obviously has a big impact on the team. She sets an example like ‘Hey if she’s willing to play through something, with my little injury here I can play through it.’”

Hare hopes her attitude can permeate throughout the team.

“We all have to push each other, that’s what makes us better,” she said.

Hare will do whatever it takes to play soccer. She started playing in Kindergarten and was coached by one of her best friend’s father, whom she said “was one of the best coach’s I ever had. He made me love the sport more.”

Charlotte moved from rec ball to Hopewell travel, and joined the MLSA club program in sixth grade and has been there ever since.

When she got to high school, she surprised herself by earning a varsity starting berth.

“I was definitely trying for a varsity spot but I knew that competition my freshman year was amazing,” Hare said. “We were outstanding. We won the Mercer County Tournament, we won our state sectionals. It was such an honor to be a part of, the girls were just amazing.”

A midfielder growing up, Hare was moved to outside back her freshman year and McGinley said, “she really helped us tremendously with what she could do. She’s tough, she’s physical but she’s also very skilled.”

Thanks to that skill, she was moved around the past few years, usually as a holding or attacking midfielder.

“Her best position is holding mid because she’s got that kind of toughness and a defensive capability,” McGinley said. “She’s really good at winning the ball and has great skill and great vision where she can find the open player.”

Entering this season, Hare has a career total of three goals and nine assists, with all her goals coming last year. The HoVal coaches are encouraging her to be more selfish and go to goal, but her first instinct is to look out for her teammates.

“I definitely need to work more on that,” said Hare, who hopes to continue her career at either Salisbury State or The College of New Jersey. “I just feel that I can distribute as well as I can shoot. I don’t find myself in that position that much. But that’s on me, I need to create stuff for me, just not my teammates.”

In other words, Hare needs to have a nose for the goal—as long she keeps it protected.