Friday, January 23, 2015

National Elite Tournament puts spotlight on area players Courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

By Shawn Smajstrla
Special to the Star-Telrgram
By Shawn SmajstrlaSpecial to the Star-Telrgram Posted Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015

The National Elite Prep Showcase is an annual stop each January for girls high school soccer teams that subscribe to the theory you have to play the best to be the best.

The event, in its 12th year, brought top programs from around the state and the country to venues across Fort Worth for three days of high-caliber competition Jan. 8-10 as UIL regular-season play started.

“The purpose behind it was to let coaches — especially club and college coaches — know that high school soccer around this country is entertaining to watch, that it’s worth watching and recruiting at,” Fort Worth Nolan Catholic coach Jay Fitzgerald said. “We just wanted to put a true college showcase out there.”

Co-hosts Nolan and Southlake Carroll were among 36 teams that braved cold weather to test themselves against some of the state and nation’s elite.

“You get to see where your team is at,” Fitzgerald said. “You get to find out what is your identity. Who are we? What type of players do we have? Are they relishing this challenge? You’re playing teams that are Top 25 in the country or have won state championships. You get to identify who those players are that you can go to battle with.”

Nolan went 2-1 in its three matches, losing 4-1 to San Diego Cathedral Catholic, which is ranked No. 1 in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

“Some teams get hit in the mouth, and they get right back up. Some teams, if they get hit in the mouth and they don’t get back up, at least you learned something about your team,” Fitzgerald said. “Being able to battle with the No. 1 team and it’s 2-1 with six minutes remaining and we have a chance to win it, we know now what we have to do to win it. We know what adjustments we have to make. These are games where you can really figure yourself out.”

Nolan also impressed with a rally against Belton. Trailing 3-0 at halftime, the Vikings scored four goals in the first 17 minutes of the second half to win 4-3.

“We figured out in that moment, that if we go down in a championship, or in a playoff game, we know that we’ve done it. We’ve come back from being 3-0 down. I look at that as being more valuable than anything,” Fitzgerald added.

Carroll also posted a 2-1 record, defeating Fort Worth Arlington Heights and El Camino (Calif.) sandwiched around a loss to Austin Westlake.

“You learn a lot, especially when you’re on the losing side,” Carroll coach Matt Colvin said. “We gave up a goal early in a match and the way we responded wasn’t as positive as I’d hoped. The adjustments I made didn’t seem to work. The team learned a lot, and I learned a lot about the team at that moment.”

Carroll has high expectations this season, and playing in the showcase provided them an early measuring stick.

“That’s something that we don’t mind figuring out early in the year, so that when we get in that situation again we’re able to handle it different. With that type of talent coming in, you’re going to get those situations and some high-pressure games. Although we’re never looking to lose, it’s something we definitely learn from.”

Another local team that had a successful showcase was Keller. The Indians, who were among the Star-Telegram teams to watch this season, won all three matches, defeating McKinney Boyd, Grapevine and Arlington Martin.

Another local team with high hopes this year, Trophy Club Nelson, defeated Katy Seven Lakes and Klein and lost to Coppell.

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