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The Times
  • GIRLS' SOCCER: Poland seventh-grader accepted into Olympic Development Program

  • NOVEMBER 30 GIRLS' SOCCER



    The varsity team’s state championship was not the only success story for Poland girls’ soccer this year.



    Seventh-grader Claire Lepper, 12, has been accepted into the local U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program as a goalie.

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  • The varsity team’s state championship was not the only success story for Poland girls’ soccer this year.
    Seventh-grader Claire Lepper, 12, has been accepted into the local U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program as a goalie.
    Trying out for the program made her worry at times, she said, but playing goalie does not.
    “If I let one goal in, it just makes me stronger,” she said. “I’m never nervous. My friends are like, ‘Aren’t you nervous in the goal?’ And I’m like, ‘Not really.’ I just don’t have nerves.”
    Lepper’s Coliseum Soccer Club team recommended that she go to the Olympic Development Program tryouts. There are north, south, east and west Olympic Development Program teams in New York state, and Lepper is part of the west team. Some of the best players end up making the U.S. soccer team.
    For now, Lepper is focusing on enjoying the opportunity and improving on the field.
    “I’m glad to just have the experience,” she said. “It feels like it’s giving me extra training.”
    ‘TRYING OUT’
    The first tryout was in Syracuse, where Lepper’s goalie skills were tested. She advanced to the next stage in Rochester, where she and another goalie were attempting to make the team. They had a tryout session and then a scrimmage.
    “It’s kind of scary because you’re trying out, and you don’t think you’re going to make it,” she said. “But it’s also kind of fun because you learning new things.”
    After the scrimmage, she found out that both she and the other goalie were accepted into the Olympic Development Program.
    “I was happy,” she said. “I thought, ‘Yes, I finally made it.’”
    She will practice with the program once per month until April. Practices and scrimmages take place in locations such as Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton.
    In April, there will be further cuts down to a team that will compete in tournaments and practice more regularly.
    “Now, I have to work my hardest,” she said. “I have to work harder than I ever did.”
    ‘SOCCER FOREVER’
    Lepper started playing soccer when she was about 3 years old, and she started club soccer at the age of 8.
    It runs in her family.
    Her older sister, Alyssa, is a junior at Poland and played a key role on the varsity team’s run to a Class D state championship this year. Her younger brother, Dale, a fourth-grader at Poland, also has taken an interest in soccer.
    It all started with their father, Dave Lepper, who was a goalie while in high school at Whitesboro. Their mother, Elizabeth Lepper, is a teacher at Poland.
    Page 2 of 2 - When they all have free time, Claire, Alyssa, Dale and Dave play soccer together and have scrimmages. Sometimes, they decide that the losing team has to do pushups or extra running, Claire Lepper said.
    “I just like it for the fun of it and doing something I’m good at,” she said of soccer in general. “Everybody has something they’re good at, and this is one thing I’m really good at.”
    Like her sister, Claire Lepper made the junior varsity team at Poland as a seventh-grader. In addition to continuing with the high school teams, her club team and the Olympic Development Program, Claire hopes to play soccer in college.
    She also plans to stay involved with helping her brother with soccer.
    “And then I’ll just keep playing soccer forever, really,” she said. “For as long as I can.”
    From Herkimer BOCES

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