March 25, 2012
By DAVID REYNOLDS - Bulletin Sports Editor
Spectators were treated to nine collegiate soccer matches at 2012 Smith River College Showcase free of charge on Saturday, but those weren’t the only games being played at the Smith River Sports Complex.
Area athletes were also meeting with coaches from several of the participating schools before, during and after the spring scrimmages in the hope of landing their names on a program’s recruiting radar.
Carlisle’s soccer program led the way with half a dozen players watching the action and speaking with coaches.
“We encourage all our players interested in college soccer to come out here and meet the coaches, because the coaches are so accessible,” Carlisle head coach Enda Crehan said. “That’s access you can’t get anywhere else.”
Carlisle’s Corey Gaylor and Bennett White were among the Chiefs to speak with coaches in between matches.
“Getting my name out there for them,” Gaylor said of what he was doing at the SRSC. “I’ve met JMU, High Point and Appalachian State.”
The two Chiefs added the meetings with coaches generally only last a minute or two.
But even a little time can help a coach make a decision, Appalachian State coach Matt Nelson said.
“Anytime you get to meet a kid, talk to him, see his personality, see his character, that’s always huge. It goes a long way in improving your understanding of the kid,” Nelson said during his team’s game against Longwood.
“It helps you figure out if a kid’s going to fit with the program, even if it is for 25, 30 seconds. You still get a general idea of what the kid is like.”
As for the event itself, SRSC director of operations Billy Russo estimated the event drew around 400 people, a little better than last year. Wet weather threatened to derail the event, but the skies cleared by the 10:30 a.m. start time and stayed that way until a tornado warning ended the second session a little early.
This year’s teams were High Point, Appalachian State, UNC-Greensboro, James Madison, Longwood, Averett, Radford and Richmond. The showcase is in its third year of existence.
“I think the crowds were better than last year,” Russo said. “I’m pleased. It gets better every year with talent. Richmond’s a pretty good school, so we’re filling it out with talent. If we can get a couple more good schools, it’ll be even bigger. So that’s our plan for the future.”
Since the competitive college season is in the fall, the college coaches opted to experiment with their usual lineups and to empty out their benches over the slate of games.
High Point coach Dustin Fonder said he used to game to find and develop the core of next year’s team, and he was pleased at the way his team performed on Saturday.
“The spring season for us is kind of our development season as we get ready for the fall,” Fonder said after High Point’s 3-1 win over James Madison. “We get to try different lineups, different players and really test ourselves. It’s good because we get a good level of competition here.”
With rainy conditions comes concerns about field quality, but the SRSC’s field turf erased those doubts quickly. The playing surface was in good shape even after heavy rain Friday night and Saturday morning, and the games started on time.
“To be honest, when we were driving up, knowing it was turf with the weather we had, we knew we would be safe,” Nelson said. “It’s a great facility to come out and play soccer.”
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