Cooper prepared to compete in North-South game
by Erich Hilkert
PELL CITY—Some find quietly turning the pages of an engrossing book helps. Others cannot imagine anything other than stirring music punctuated by cascading crescendos. Still others prefer a glass of well-heated herbal tea. For Kodi Cooper, there is no better way to relieve stress than on a soccer field.

For the third straight year, the Pell City Lady Panthers soccer team will be represented at the 17th annual Alabama All-Star Sports Week North-South soccer game in Montgomery, with Cooper being this year’s honoree.

Pell City head coach Jeff Samoranski believes Cooper’s cerebral style of play is one of her greatest assets.

“She’s a very technical player and knows how to read the game,” Samoranski said. “She plays in the defensive center midfield, what we call a ‘holding midfield.’ Basically, she is the one who kind of cleans everything up and prevents the initial surge of the attack from the other team prior to them getting to our defenders. She plays pretty much across the width of the field, whereas most everybody else plays vertical, north and south. She plays the width in stopping the attacks. She’s very fast. She knows exactly what she needs to do, how to position herself, just a great player. I am sure she is going to make a very big difference on the team during the All-Star game.”

As the team’s defensive midfielder, the mental aspect of the game and versatility are two of the position’s most desirable qualities.

“My main ability on the soccer field is being able to visualize,” Cooper said. “I’m a very good visualizer—like where I need to be out there. That’s my main importance on the field. You have to be able to support the offense and the defense—both. You have to be able to be up when we need to be on offense and get back when we’re on defense. You’re the main breakthrough point before it gets to the defense.”

Cooper has been playing soccer in Pell City since she was nine, when she began at the Pell City Civic Center under the direction of Samoranski. Over the years, she has played with some of the elite club teams in Briarwood and Vestavia Hills.

From a young age, Cooper dreamed of playing soccer at the college level. With this opportunity to play in front of a multitude of college coaches, the dream might inch closer toward reality.

“My main goal when I started playing soccer was to be able to play in college,” Cooper said. “It’s not easy. My first goal is to graduate high school with no injuries, but then get into college and actually stick with it because a lot of people don’t stick with it.”

If Cooper’s on-the-field demeanor plays a role, Samoranski thinks she should have no problem sticking with it.

“She is very determined when she is on the field,” he said. “She is a leader, she communicates well. She’s very aggressive.”

Cooper will be making a trip to Troy University following All-Star week. She’s been in contact with Troy head coach Chris Bentley and will likely have a chance to speak with more coaches during All-Star week. Regardless, Cate Eden, a senior on last season’s team and last year’s Pell City representative at the North-South girls soccer game, reassured her to remember one of the reasons she enjoys soccer: because it is an outlet to relieve stress.

“She said it’s a lot of fun,” Cooper said. “She was kind of nervous going into it, like I am, but she said there’s nothing to be nervous about: just do the best you can and don’t think about anything when you’re out there. I heard there’s going to be a bunch of people watching. I want to do as well as I can but also have fun.”

She will have at least one familiar face to lend her support: Samoranski, who applauded both Cooper and the school’s other representative, Ryan Curran.

“To be selected to the All-Star team and to play against the best of the best on the All-Star team is really going to showcase a lot of their talents,” Samoranski said. “I look forward to being there and watching them.”

Every year, Cooper has been in high school, the Lady Panthers have made the 6A playoffs. They finished runner-up in their area this past season, while they won their area the two previous seasons. Cooper hopes to help the team return to the playoffs again this season.

“Our season wasn’t as good as the past year’s season, but as a team we stay close,” Cooper said. “We try to win as many as we can. That’s what we’re hoping to do with me being a senior this year.”
© 2013