Emily Belchyk's mother cut her a nice deal a couple years ago.
In response to the Evans soccer player's scoring slump, her mom agreed to buy her a pair of shoes for every pair of goals she scored.
For Belchyk, who recently signed a scholarship to play for Brevard (N.C.) College, the ploy worked.
"She bribed me back into scoring," Belchyk said.
Belchyk's teammate Tarah Henderson signed at the same time to play for Mississippi State University.
Tommy Garcia, who has long coached the two girls' club team and heads the girls team Aquinas, was on hand for the signing.
Henderson, he said, was the top scorer in her age group last season and was one of the state's most feared attackers.
"My philosophy: There's 40 minutes, get as many goals as I can," Henderson said. "I pray, I sleep, I get out there and try to score."
In keeping with her views, Henderson asked that a prayer precede the signing ceremony. Ernst Cleophat, who coached Henderson for four years as an assistant at Evans, had prepared a statement to read at her signing but didn't get the time.
"Tarah is a forward who always seems to find a way to score goals," Cleophat wrote. "She is an instinctive finisher who I would describe as a 'poacher' or 'predator' in the penalty area."
Garcia lauded Belchyk for her ability to play anywhere on the field. She played in the backfield for Garcia's club teams the last two seasons, when Brevard took notice.
Belchyk said Brevard coach Liz Stojetz told her that the Tornados were set on defense but that she would be an asset at forward.
Belchyk credits Garcia for molding her into the player she is.
"He helped me so much," she said. "When I started, I couldn't kick a ball straight."
Garcia's teaching came back to haunt him when Belchyk scored the winning goal against Aquinas on Feb. 20.
"I gave him a hug," she said. "He said he'd rather it have been me than anyone else."
Belchyk also received partial scholarships to run track and cross country. She plans to major in business and hopes to open her own store selling --what else? -- shoes.
"I'm a really big shoe freak," she said.
Henderson said the Bulldogs had been after her for some time. She received an official offer from Mississippi State during a visit on spring break in 2007, but held off on a decision.
"My first thought was, 'That is so far away, why would anybody want to go there?' " Henderson said.
Academics were a big part of her choice, she said. And she considered attending the University of South Carolina and University of Georgia for their academic programs and walking on the soccer team.
"With Mississippi State, I get both," Henderson said.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
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