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Ryan Stewart, left, of Lindsey Wilson battles Nick Mrckowski of Christian Brothers.
Daily photos by John Godbey
Ryan Stewart, left, of Lindsey Wilson battles Nick Mrckowski of Christian Brothers.

College programs play in Decatur for player development

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com · 340-2462

Gerry Cleary’s Martin Methodist women’s soccer team was set to play Samford at 5 p.m. on Stadium Field No. 1 at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex on Saturday afternoon.

Yet there was Cleary, shortly before 5, slowly making his way around the network of fields, glad-handing and talking with parents, players and coaches from other schools in Decatur for the second annual college showcase.

Here’s the thing — there was no need for Cleary to hurry.

Wins weren’t the most important goal during the day of exhibition matches, which included women’s teams from Martin Methodist, West Florida, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Vandy and Samford. Men’s teams came from Christian Brothers, West Florida and Lindsey Wilson.

“When you’re in college, in the fall we’re win-orientated,” Cleary said. “Spring is the time of year when we get to develop these players. If we go out and lose all these games, it’s not that big a deal.”

Keith Savage, left, of Christian Brothers wins control of the ball over Ian Lindo of Lindsey Wilson.
Keith Savage, left, of Christian Brothers wins control of the ball over Ian Lindo of Lindsey Wilson.
Put another way, think of the showcase as an extended day of spring football games.

For Lindsey Wilson College, spring showcases are a time to expand horizons.

An NAIA school based in Columbia, Ky., Lindsey Wilson faced other teams in Decatur with different ideas on the game of soccer.

“We want to try and play teams different from ours,” Lindsey Wilson men’s head coach Ray Wells said.

“They’re in a different league and play a different style than us.”

The difference?

“Mainly, we’re primarily an international team, and these teams are primarily American teams,” Wells said. “We tend to end up with kids from Europe and Africa. It’s good to play in this type of event because it gives our kids a whole new experience.”

What can’t be forgotten about the teams at this time of year is that they’re not complete. Coaches don’t have incoming freshmen at their disposal, and they’re playing without the seniors from the past year’s team.

“Spring is about player development, and fall is about results,” Samford women’s coach Todd Yelton said.

Martin Methodist, out of Pulaski, Tenn., was one of three women’s schools invited to the showcase that isn’t NCAA Division I.

Despite that, Samford’s Yelton wasn’t concerned about the level of play when the Lady Bulldogs faced Martin Methodist on Saturday.

“Obviously in the fall, the necessity is Division I,” Yelton said.

“As long as you get a good team, who cares what the classification is in the spring?”

For Wells, it’s all about finding out who will take the place of the departed seniors.

“What we’re trying to do is, we had four seniors and we’re seeing if some of the juniors are stepping up or if I have to go out and find a freshman,” Wells said.

The showcase will continue today with youth development teams playing from 8:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m. at Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

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