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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The captain of the Air Force women’s soccer team and All-Armed Forces squad in 2004 is back for another shot at the gold in the International Military Sports Council (CISM) championship this spring.

First Lt. Beth Welliver, a protocol officer for U.S. Forces Japan, was among 26 players invited to Pope Air Force Base, N.C., for the official tryout, which began Thursday and ends May 1. The 26-year-old center midfielder said, she hopes to land one of 20 roster spots and lead the Air Force club into the Armed Forces Tournament, slated for May 2-10 at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla.

“It’s exciting and it’ll be very interesting this year,” Welliver said before leaving Yokota. “A lot of our experienced players either separated or have duty commitments. Going into camp, only myself and one other have played before. It’s a whole new crop of girls but also a whole new crop of talent. There are some pretty good girls coming in so we should have a pretty strong team.”

That was certainly the case two years ago when Welliver guided Air Force to a gold medal in the Armed Forces Tournament and then helped Team USA grab a third-place finish in the CISM games at Fort Eustis, Va.

While leaping for a corner kick in Game 3 of the world matches, she collided with another player and fell awkwardly, suffering a cracked vertebra. She went on to play in the semifinals but was forced to the bench in the consolation round — the first time in her career she’s missed a game.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t flare up and bother me too much,” she said. “It’s one of those things that has to heal itself. You just take some Motrin and push through it.”

The 2006 CISM games take place May 28 to June 4 in Zoutkamp, Holland. But Welliver says she won’t be looking ahead.

“My biggest goal … would be to have Air Force win the gold medal again in the armed forces tourney,” she said. “Beyond that, I’d like to make the armed forces team and have a good showing at the world championships. That’ll hopefully come in time. But I’ll focus on the Air Force team first.”

Welliver was the 1998 Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa her senior season at Waukee High School. She became a four-year starter at the Air Force Academy, where she set several school and Mountain West Conference records that still stand.

Since 2004, she’s been the starting center midfielder for the Yokota base team, comprised mostly of men. She was the first female to play in the Tokyo Metropolis League.

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