A foot to throat-and-face area tough enough? Sydney Nordan took that swift kick and barely stayed on the ground. And she dishes it out, too.
Emergency room visits for everything from hyper-extended limbs and broken legs — one “dangling where it wasn’t supposed to,” she said — it’s all in the life of a goal keeper in those intense seconds when two people collide going for the same ball.
“She’s tough as a pine knot,” said Erik McDaniel, Faith Christian coach. “Just fearless.”
That kick to the face-and-throat area (not her first), came against Collinsville this season in a tight contest that kept Faith Christian from winning the area title. But just like Nordan, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, the Lions bounced back.
Faith made it into the postseason yet again, but this group is still searching for its first playoff win. Tonight Faith Christian travels to Susan Moore for the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A-4A playoffs.
Long wavy ponytail aside, Nordan said she’s never been a girly-girl. With Faith without a girls soccer team, she started to prove she belonged in the seventh grade. Now, she feels like she’s earned the role more than inherited it. While she’s long since proved her worth to her coaches and teammates, she said she still feels the stares when she nears a new pitch.
Slowly, they’re beginning to go away.
“The word’s gotten out,” said teammate Cole Parks, “she’s not a pushover.”
But neither is Faith Christian. While her 4.2 saves and 1.4 goals-against-game average has a lot to do with the athletic ability and tenacious attitude, it has just as much to do with her team.
Faith, comprised of players who play seven to eight months a year, is strong defensively, thwarting shots before they ever get to Nordan’s chalk-lined rectangle.
McDaniel points to the Lions’ offense as the strongest phase of their game. Led by Parks and his double-digit goals and assists for four years running, getting ahead can change the dynamic of a game.
“It breaks their will,” Parks said. “And it takes all the pressure off your defense when you’re playing on only half the field.”
But nobody is expecting that to happen today.
Susan Moore is undefeated accented with tricky ball handlers, but all involved insist the Bulldogs aren’t unbeatable.
“We don’t have to play perfect soccer to win,” McDaniel said.
Added Parks, “at this point, it’s all about focus.”
So, maybe when Faith gets off the bus today and begins the slow confident walk to the pitch, those blonde locks could be the little bit of distraction they need. That, however, is never a distraction for her teammates.
“She’s just one of us,” Parks said.
Bran Strickland is the assistant managing editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.