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Global May 27, 2012

Fayetteville SC Force U18 players building memories, building success at Ralph Downey Memorial Classic

By Jimmy LaRoue

Fayetteville SC Force U18 (NC) coach Aaron Wood had a challenge in assembling his roster for the Ralph Downey Memorial Classic this weekend, as his players were coming off high school play and did not have all of its regular players available.

That meant Wood had to call up seven of the club’s other players to fill out the squad.

Still, they’ve done quite nicely, as Fayetteville is atop its bracket after two wins Saturday, 3-0 over Northern Virginia SC Jr Majestics and 1-0 over Virginia Rush Swoosh U17.

“To finish up the God-awful high school season and to come together and to play the way they did, they really jelled well, not just with finishing, not just with the score, but as far as just moving the ball, shape.”

Alyssa McCray, who is coming off a meniscus tear and missed the last five-and-a-half months, scored two first half goals in the win over the Majestics. This is just her second tournament back after the injury.

“To come out with two of those goals is a confidence builder,” Wood said.

Wood adjusted tactics to play a 4-3-3, which his team has never played until this weekend.

“We went over it, and went over the rules, the rules for every player and who was going in what position and exactly what their job was, and they did a tremendous job,” Wood said. “I mean, they came in, and to me, they just owned it.”

Abbey Moore, as a center back, has kept the team grounded, though she will be leaving the club soon as she has graduated high school.

Fayetteville also features N.C. State verbal commit Carly Gustafson, a junior who still has one more year remaining with the club.

“She changes the dynamic of our game entirely,” Wood said. “We use her as an 11th field player, which most teams don’t do. … She’s athletic enough and able to play any position of the field that she can direct the field players the entire game.”

Leanne Davis, who has never played with the team, is an ODP player who started as a central back Saturday. She hopes to walk on at N.C. State, so Wood has been shifting her around the field so he can give feedback on what she needs to do at the next level.

Nancy Kirk, who plays as a forward, “plays like a guy,” Wood said. “She’s just physical, brutal. She’ll run over you, with fair play, but she will go at you relentlessly.”

McCray and Madi Timothy “are just pure athleticism and speed. They’re just going to run the crap out of anybody they go at.”

The team’s goal is to be unbeaten in the tournament, but being U-18 and not going to a State Cup or nationals out of this tournament, Wood said the tournament is more about his girls having fun at the beach.

While the team is registered as U-18 because it has two U-18 players, the rest of the players are U-17s and will be entering its U-18 season, so the tournament is also a warmup of sorts for that.

“This is a precursor to our summer training and our summer showcases that we’ll be doing,” Wood said. “They’re a great group of girls who just want to play.”

Normally the club has played in The Virginian, another tournament going on this weekend, but instead is in Virginia Beach this weekend. He hopes the girls build memories they can look back on

“A lot of it is, where at the beach can we go,” Wood said. “They love it [here]. They were quite surprised when we discussed, after the second game, we’re going to take all of you down to the beach.

“Usually, showcase tournaments we’re in an atmosphere of ‘stay out of the water, stay out the pool. Rest, recover. We’ve got to compete. So it just sets a different tone for them to be able to just relax and have fun, get to know the younger players, get to get to know the other players that are coming in, and they’re really enjoying it so far.”