Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SPORTS >> Jacksonville soccer makes strides

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville soccer teams are off to a strong start with a 2-0 record for the Lady Red Devils and a 1-1 record for the boys.

The Lady Red Devils, backed by a solid performance from freshman goalkeeper Ja Quia Alexander, opened the season with a 6-0 shutout over cross-town rival North Pulaski.

6A-East Conference play crept up quickly on the Lady Devils, who faced Marion in their second match and won decisively, 8-2.

Junior forward and team captain Taylor Ruple led the way with four goals while sophomore Katie Lawrence added three. Courtney Moody gave Jacksonville the early lead when she scored the first goal on a penalty kick.

“We’re excited about this year,” Lady Red Devils assistant coach Addie Sereal said. “We’re excited to be 2-0 this season, and everyone is working really hard to reach the state tournament again.”

The Lady Red Devils qualified for the 6A state tournament last year despite a slow start. There was talk of not fielding a girls team at all before Ruple, then a sophomore, began recruiting schoolmates and piecing a team together.

“It makes them proud to know that they’ve worked hard,” Sereal said.

“They practiced when there wasn’t anyone else out there; the girls came out and worked by themselves. It just shows what faith and determination can accomplish.”

The Red Devils are starting a new era this season with coach Pablo Reilman, formerly a volunteer coach at North Pulaski.

Reilman is also president of the Jacksonville Soccer Association, and wants to build excitement for soccer in the community on the level Searcy has achieved.

Searcy teams have dominated Class 6A soccer for half a decade backed by the strength of the community youth clubs.

“If Jacksonville wants to be successful in soccer, what they have to do is get kids to go join a club,” Reilman said. “So, by the time they reach high school, they will have some experience playing soccer.That’s what I want to try and do, is get them involved and get them developed.”