By Jimmy Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org | 265-7807 | Twitter: @JimmyLewisWT
After helping their Wilson Youth Soccer Association U13 team make club history by qualifying for the U.S. Youth Soccer National League Piedmont Conference for the first time, both Samantha Mallol and Susan Guzman are ready to take the next step.
Guzman, a forward, will become the second player from WYSA to earn a spot on the North Carolina Courage Development Academy U14 girls team, joining Chloe Howard with the distinction of playing at the highest level of girls soccer in the state.
Defender Samantha Mallol was selected to the Elite Club National League’s U14 team, which is organized by North Carolina Football Club.
Both helped lead Springfield Middle to the Tricounties Athletic Conference tournament championship this past season by defeating defending champion Elm City. A total of seven Wildcats were present on the WYSA squad that qualified for the National League.
“We aren’t the big mega club that has 25,000 kids to choose from,” WYSA coaching director Thomas Goines said. “We’re very proud of our role in the developmental model. We’re proud of how we take players and put them in position to take the next step. Athletes that come through here, when they get an opportunity, it’s a moment of pride in this case.”
Goines, the former women’s soccer coach at Barton College, coached the WYSA U13 Explosion last season to the National League.
Mallol attended the invitation-only tryouts in May, was selected and now will be part of an NCFC team that will be subject to training four times a week, up from three from the WYSA requirements. Training camp begins at the end of July, but the caveat of playing for both the Development Academy and the NCFC ECNL is that players are not permitted to play for their school teams.
“I’m very excited,” Mallol assured in a telephone interview last week. “But I’m upset to leave my team that I’ve been with for five years. I was excited and I was happy that I was going to get the opportunity. A lot of things were running through my head, but my team was pretty surprised by it.”
Mallol’s presence in the defensive third for WYSA helped it to an unexpected second-place finish in its first trip to the National League Piedmont Conference, posting an 8-1-2 record in the 12-team league.
A singular focus on soccer has Mallol believing she’s ready to handle the rigors of extra training at the ECNL level. But with that will come exposure to more spots on the field than just the back third.
“I think I’ll be playing different positions and learning different positions,” Mallol said.
Guzman will be joining a roster that saw Howard, who set a program record with 52 goals as a seventh grader at Greenfield School in the spring of 2018, make a quick impression in her first season at the Academy level. In 24 matches, Howard has tallied 13 goals for the Courage U14s, which ranks second on the team.
The Girls Development Academy for the Courage begins its season in August and runs through the following July. Guzman, who has played on a WYSA team since the age of 8, earned a spot on the elite unit after successfully completing a rigorous tryout.
“I was really happy,” Guzman said. “I started crying, but they were like happy tears! I’m nervous about doing it and sad about leaving my old team. I’m definitely going to miss it. We had fun, but the DA (Development Academy) doesn’t allow you to play school soccer.”
Goines, who assured WYSA would never “live and die” by the result of a single match, pointed to the Mallol and Guzman promotions as an example of what can be nurtured under local stewardship.
“As far as the club, it’s a feather in the cap for what our goal is,” Goines said of WYSA. “We want to develop athletes to fill their potential at the highest level they can.”