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Games People Play 6.7.2006

By Rick Racela

Middle’s Davies Is About Goals and Friends
 
It started with a little girl chasing her older brothers and a soccer ball around a Court House backyard.
It’s evolved into a partial athletic scholarship to Penn State.
Tara Davies is a 5-2 speedster finishing up her high school studies and athletic career at Middle Township High School.  A record-setting soccer and softball player, Davies has parlayed innate talents, hard work and an engaging personality into an invitation to the famed “Happy Valley.”
Most illustrative of her demeanor is Davies’ lack of direct knowledge of her impressive accomplishments.  While she and parents Patty and Butch remain proud of her records and achievements, Davies appears most pleased with the lifelong friendships she has made by virtue of her team-oriented approach to sports.
 A three-time All-South Jersey soccer performer, Davies netted a whopping 104 goals as a Panther forward.  She earned All-State recognition this season along with her fourth trip to the All-Cape Atlantic League team.
While her squads at Middle and various traveling teams have had modest overall success, Davies has treasured the time with her teammates and a special coach in Bob Wishart. 
Wishart guided Davies for seven of her eight seasons in orange and black soccer and softball, respectively.  His approach is mild-mannered and beset with humor, much like his star pupil.  His players, especially Davies, enjoy playing for him, something many coaches seldom seem to master.
Davies was never short on spunk or personality as she competed playfully with older brothers Sean and Ryan and performed on all-boy youth soccer teams as a youngster.  She wasn’t concerned or intimidated about being the only female on the field before Cape Express went co-ed.
While undecided about her college major, Davies is quick to reply about her greatest thrills over four years of athletic prowess.  Without hesitation she alludes to the many friendships she has fostered.   Her primary recollection of the night she scored her 100th goal was that of a spectator friend running onto the field for a hug.
“All of my friends were there,” Davies said proudly of her milestone evening.  “I’ve had memories I’ll cherish the rest of my life.  Everybody on our teams knew we weren’t going to win state titles, but we played for fun and for each other.”
True to her small town roots, Davies had planned to attend a small college.  She was aiming toward Philly’s St. Joseph’s or LaSalle.  Then she attended a Rhode Island soccer camp and met a Penn State assistant coach who invited her for a visit.
“It was unbelievable,” said Davies.  “There’s so much going on there.  It’s like a city within itself.  I’m very excited about the opportunity.”
While appreciating her natural speed and quickness, Davies understood early that hours in the backyard, traveling teams and individual commitment were required to compete at the highest levels.
“You have to do things on your own,” she noted.  “You have to run on your own, go to the gym, work in the backyard.  You can’t expect to get better by just going to the team practices.”
Of her travels “all over the east coast” Davies especially noted that she’s “made lots of friends.”  True to form, her best buddy to this day is someone she met as a seventh grader playing soccer in Millville. 
Another close childhood friend now toils for rival Ocean City but no contest could impact the way Davies and her friends feel about each other. 
As for advising other up-and-coming young athletes, Davies says priorities are vital. 
“Keep your priorities straight,” she insisted.  “School is the most important thing.  Do your homework on the way to and from games.  Make time for the important things.”
As she prepares for her first year in higher education and the Big Ten Conference, Davies will focus on increasing her stamina.   She says she’ll do “a ton of running” and work on her ball skills.
She’ll balance her day job in Stone Harbor with weight lifting and skills training.  She hopes to have “some social life” at night. 
How will she measure her collegiate happiness?
“I hope to remain healthy,” said Davies.  “I want to get a fair shot at playing time.  I just want to go out and get a chance.”
But that wasn’t all she had to say about the next four years.
“My friends are very excited,” she said.  “They want to come see me play.”
Priorities, indeed.

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