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Soccer big part of Mack's present, future

Alexandra Mack of Naples gets off a shot in last season's Division II championship game against Vicenza.

MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

By RUSTY BRYAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 4, 2012

All-Europe senior central-midfielder Alexandra Mack is just weeks away from ending her high school athletic career with the Naples Wildcats. But according to Naples coach Melinda Durham, “A-Mack” is just getting started.

“I see her on the U.S. national team,” Durham said by telephone on Monday about her star, who’s accepted a scholarship to play NCAA Division I soccer with Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

Reaching Team USA from DODDS-Europe Division II would seem to be a steep climb. But before dismissing Durham’s vision as mere coach’s hyperbole, consider this:

“To me, what’s always stood out about her is her professionalism and talent,” Durham said. “We haven’t taught her to be the athlete she is. She takes the initiative to grow and improve. You never see her anywhere without a ball, running or working on her skills. She takes wonderful corners. She stays after practice to work on them.”

Initiative’s precisely the right word for Mack. Home-schooled since the second grade, Mack volunteers with the American Soccer Club’s Summer Kick-Around program, the American Red Cross and Vacation Bible School and is active in the Protestant Women of the Chapel. At the family’s previous duty station in Virginia Beach, Va., Mack helped her mother, Natalie, in leading the Military Christian Homeschool Support Group at Little Creek Naval Base.

All that’s over and above a full athletic schedule, which involves earning team MVP honors last fall with the Naples cross country team and playing soccer with Olympic Development Program-Europe, the Youth Services Italia Select team and the Naples Primerva club team.

“I just love soccer,” Mack said by telephone on Monday, adding that her move to Italy for her junior year just added to the sport’s appeal.

“In the States, you might ride a bus for an hour for a game,” she said. “Over here, we get on a bus for eight hours and go to Milan.”

The move also has allowed Mack to experience Italian soccer, far different from the American game.

“I play two different games,” she said. “The Italians are definitely different — more tactical.”

And more defensively oriented, an aspect of the game Mack has incorporated into her own.

“I play left midfield for my Italian team,” she said, “and that has me dropping back a lot. It’s really helped strengthen my game.”

Not that her game requires much shoring up. Mack, who scored double-digit goals last season for a Naples team which won the D-II crown and has begun 2012 3-0, already has eight in three games this season, along with two assists. The eight goals have come on just 15 shots on goal that Mack has taken since moving this season from striker to center-mid.

“We moved her to take advantage of her skills,” Durham said, “and also it kind of hides her a bit.”

Mack, whom Durham described as “super-fast,” fully approves the move.

“I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “I was hesitant at first, but I like being able to see the whole field.”

Mack’s whole field is about to become much wider.

“I report for summer-bridge activities in July,” she said of her college future. “Conditioning starts in August. There’s going to be a lot of competition, but I’m excited.”

And don’t worry about high school ball becoming old-hat.

“It’s not hard to focus,” Mack said of her final season. “There’s always something to work on.”

bryanr@estripes.osd.mil

Alexandra Mack of Naples, right, protects the ball from Bitburg's Siobhan Box in a girls Division II semifinal Last season. With the game tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation, Mack scored both overtime goals for a 4-2 win.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES