Tricia Townsend decided a long time ago that numbers would not define her as a soccer player.
"(Goal-scoring statistics) are interesting to see, but that's not what soccer's all about," she said.
And Townsend is all about soccer. It's her life and her passion. If pressed to define herself, the simple phrase "soccer player" would be her choice. But she meant so much more than that to the Gulf Coast High girls soccer team. She lead her team in goals and assists, led them to another regional tournament berth and won her second straight Naples Daily News Girls Soccer Player of the Year award in the process.
She said it disappoints her that most people focus on goal scoring as the barometer for soccer prowess.
"That's the first thing people ask you after a game, 'Did you score?'" she said. "That doesn't define anyone as a player. I know great players who don't score."
Townsend did score – 22 goals this season to be exact – but her value to the Sharks was so much more than that, coach Mark Voorhees said. Voorhees considers her the backbone of his team and her willingness to work within the team concept was why.
"She's such an unselfish player," Voorhees said. "She helps me focus on everyone else. She truly made other players better. She brought the whole team up to another level."
Townsend considers herself just part of a logic-driven machine she calls soccer. If the shot is there, she'll take it. But if a better shot is there for another teammate, Townsend has no qualms giving up the ball. She led the team with 11 assists.
"If the percentages are higher for them to make it, it's more logical for them to do it," Townsend said. "I'm not one who counts scores."
Her diverse soccer background might have helped her with that. She played defense for five years before her Olympic Development Program coach moved her to the midfield and to a more pronounced scoring position. Townsend might not have always been a scorer, but she's always been a leader.
She's been a team captain at Gulf Coast for two years and a team captain on her club team for three. Voorhees could tell she had it in her from the first time she stepped on to a Gulf Coast practice field.
"All the players gave a collective 'wow,'" Voorhees said. "When she left the field, I said to her that she should really be able to help us. She just said 'thank you very much,' total respect and class. And the first impression was what she turned out to be."
Now she'll take her abilities to the University of Florida, which fits her both athletically and academically (she's ranked 11th in a senior class of 409). She just loves the chance to continue her soccer career.
"It's just the love of it," Townsend said. "Soccer in many ways is the perfect release when I'm stressed out. Another day I can just enjoy playing. And another day I can just be working by myself and it's just relaxing."
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