Patterson steps up at right time

New Trier senior Christy Patterson writes an inspirational quote in permanent black marker on the bottom of her left foot before every soccer game.

She doesn't do it on her left shoe or her left sock. She does it on her bare foot and then puts on the sock and shoe.

"I've been doing it since I was 14," said Patterson, who usually uses a quote from her mother. "I did it because every time I stepped I would think about what was on the bottom of my foot."

Patterson won't divulge what the quotes are as she explained it would ruin the superstition. She also normally sweats off the words, so it's not as if she walking around with hundreds of quotes on the bottom of her left foot.

Although Patterson doesn't remember how the strange tradition began, she does know why she's continued with it. She has had success on the field with those words there, and lately, she's had a whole lot of it as nearly half of her season total of seven goals and seven assists have come in the past few weeks.

With that play, Patterson, the ESPNChicago.com Athlete of the Week, has kept the top-ranked Trevians on course while the team's top scorers Amber Fry and Dani Fraelick have been out of action because of injuries.

"This is natural ability that's just coming to the surface," said New Trier coach Jim Burnside, whose team is 18-1. "It's nothing we've done. It's all within her. She's just become more comfortable and taken more on her shoulders. She's stepped up and not only filled her role, but the role of those two huge players for us.

"Nothing has changed, but more of the spotlight has been put on her. The opportunity was there for her to shine, and she's taken a hold of this opportunity in a senior-esque type of way."

On Saturday with both players missing, Patterson came through in the championship game of the Naperville Invitational against Barrington. With the game scoreless in the first half, Patterson let fly a 35-yard kick and smashed it into the top right corner of the net for one of the biggest goals in her career.

"Especially in such a huge game, in the finals of the Naperville Invitational, and Barrington had just beat the No. 1 team," said Patterson, who will play next year at Colgate. "It was definitely exciting because it was on such a huge stage."

The long-range shot had caught Barrington off guard, but it was nothing new to New Trier. It was a classic Patterson goal.

"They're not usually expecting someone to take a shot from 30," Patterson said. "I'm definitely good at striking the ball. That's one of my best features. The key is not thinking about it. The more I think, the worse I am. I kind of just take a crack at it. If I can get it clean, there's not much you can do with it."

The goal stood as the match's lone score until Barrington tied it with 2:10 left in the second half. After two scoreless overtimes, it went to a penalty kick shootout and again Patterson stepped up. She placed the ball in the top right corner during her turn and helped the Trevians to a 4-2 shootout win.

On Tuesday, Patterson kept on writing on her foot and kept on producing. In a 4-0 win over Evanston, she scored twice and dished out an assist.

"I've been shooting more and kind of getting forward more and looking to get into the attack more so than before," Patterson said. "I just kind of picked a different role after we had lost a few different players. I definitely have enjoyed it. As we're getting our players back from being injured, I hope to continue that. You can always use more goals. I think it'll be good."

Burnside would agree, and with the playoffs approaching, he knows Patterson will continue to excel.

"The key to Christy is when she has her work rate high, and when she has a little bit of pressure on her, she plays her best," Burnside said. "That's an important thing to know about her player. She's a true, true competitor. It's genetic. There's something in her that a switch turns on.

"Not that anybody likes to lose, but she especially doesn't like to lose."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.