GRANVILLE – Amber White’s dad insisted she take a break and go on vacation to Florida.
So she did, and wound up doing sand workouts on the beach for the first time.
“They were beyond hard, let me tell you,” the Watkins Memorial senior said. “But we have two-a-days coming up, and I wanted to be in shape.”
Welcome to the summer life of elite girls soccer players. Where vacations often come when they travel all over the country, or even world in the case of Newark sophomore Abby Davies.
“I fly out Sunday (today) for the Netherlands, and we’re going to play international friendlies against five different clubs,” said Davies, who scored 35 goals as a freshman for the Wildcats. “I’ve been training at the Dutch Soccer School in Washington, D.C. I’m on a regional team with players from Ohio, Kentucky and Maryland. The coaches saw you work out, and invited you.”
White is part of the Olympic Development Program, making the state team and the elite regional team that has several states represented and will compete in Florida.
“It’s been a really long process,” she said. “As far back as January. I’ve made the regional team, but they only take so many to go to Florida. I’ll know in the next couple of weeks.”
Granville’s all-everything senior and four-year varsity star Nikki Cox has made a collegiate choice, choosing Division I North Carolina-Wilmington over Lipscomb University and Iowa.
“It’s five minutes from the beach, and it’s gorgeous there,” she said.
That doesn’t mean she’s taken the summer off. Far from it. Her Ohio Premier Elite Club National Team has played in Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey and finally, Seattle, for the national championships.
“It’s been a good experience. I’ve learned so much,” Cox said. “It’s much faster-paced, higher intensity. It gets you ready.”
She practices some days with her elite team, and the rest of the time is spent working on strength and conditioning, both at the high school and at Total Athletic Development (TAD) Sports. Some days it’s weights, other days it’s speed workouts.
“I’m always trying to get faster and stronger,” she said.
White also wants to play Division I soccer.
“I’ve been focusing on my feet,” she said. “Every college coach says you can never spend enough time with the ball. I also do speed and agility drills every Tuesday and Thursday.”
Davies has three more years of high school, and has been working on using her left foot more and doing heading drills. During the summer, she’s also gone to the National Cup Regionals in Chicago with a different club team, and will play for Ohio Premier U16 when her high school season ends.
“I’ve improved tremendously, just by playing in the National Cup and training in D.C.,” she said. “My conditioning is way up.”
The focus soon turns to the high school season, a good chance to see how much the year-around work has paid off. Granville has been to the Division II state semifinals and state finals the last two years and is looking for a state championship. Watkins has beaten the Blue Aces out for the Licking County League title the last two years, and is seeking a third LCL title and better tournament success. Newark is hoping to build on last year’s promise shown by an extremely young team.
“We’re super motivated,” Cox said.
White noted that Watkins recently beat Granville in the finals of the Ohio Dominican camp.
“We’re really excited about that,” she said. “We have a lot of players back, and some good freshmen coming in.”
Davies pointed out that Newark has a new coach, Newark Area Soccer Association (NASA) girls director Scott Nichols, and a year under its belt with a team that played a slew of freshmen in 2014. Another goal remains in the back of her mind, breaking her sister Al’s career record of 108 goals.
“Getting 35 in my freshman year was really a surprise, with the teams that we play,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. Al is my role model and I respect her so much. But it’s a sibling thing.”