Published: Apr 20, 2012 10:50 PM
Modified: Apr 20, 2012 10:51 PM
National title in hand, Green Hope Falcons chase state girls soccer crown
Team’s club players No. 1 in U.S.
The reaction from friends after Alexis Shaffer played on a national championship girls’ club soccer team last summer was predictable.Awesome. Cool. Standard congratulations.The reactions have been more enthusiastic this spring for Shaffer and her teammates as the Green Hope High girls’ soccer team pursues an N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship. Anything less might be a disappointment for a prep team ranked No. 1 in the country. “There is a lot of excitement around school,” Shaffer said. Shaffer is one of five players on the Green Hope team who won a national title in the 16U Elite Club National League tournament in Aurora, Colo., in July. She was named a youth All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.Shaffer and Green Hope teammates Alexis Degler, Cameron Sigmon, Maya Worth and Sydney Curtis, who all played on the CASL Chelsea 16U team last summer, each independently decided to play for Green Hope this season, with the goal of winning a state title.The Falcons have looked the part of state favorites so far. They are 13-0 with seven shutouts and are ranked No. 1 in the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association 4A poll.“We each made our own decision, but we all wanted to do what the others were doing. Either all play or all train,” Shaffer said. “Each of us decided to play with the goal of winning the state championship.”She recalls the national club title game as intense. “I was really nervous, but then the first time I got the ball everything was fine,” she said. “You just relax and play. It is really an incredible feeling.”Shaffer, a junior who is committed to the University of Virginia, said that when she plays with the club team, or when she attends a national training camp, she is surrounded by great players; the standards are exacting.At the high school level, the competition is good, especially among the elite programs, but the level isn’t as high as among the top club teams. Nationally, there are discussions about whether the top soccer players should be involved in high school athletics rather than train year-round with other groups. U.S. Soccer is moving toward a 10-month training season, with the top players not playing high school ball.Green Hope coach Bobby Peterson knows that the decision to play on the high school team is difficult for some players. He also coaches on the club level.But he explained the difference in club and high school soccer this way: Club soccer makes you the player you are, but high school soccer is why you started playing soccer in the first place.