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Story Last modified at 6:57 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No rest for girls soccer's best
Local soccer stars heading to the next level

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Eagle River's Rebecca Boggs moves the ball upfield during a game against Palmer earlier this season. Boggs is one of three area world girls soccer players heading off to play college ball this fall.
STAR FILE PHOTO

You think you've got a busy summer? How'd you like to be playing for a national team before heading off to a top Division I team? Maybe you'd prefer two months of training in anticipation of college soccer practices held a mile above sea level. In August.

Chugiak High grads Kelly Cobb and Kendra Bulawa, along with Eagle River's Rebecca Boggs, won't have a lot of time for dip-netting and four-wheeling over the next couple months. Instead, the trio of soccer superstars will be pushing themselves in anticipation of taking their games to the next level.

Cobb, whose size, speed and ability to strike with either foot made her a nightmare for Cook Inlet Conference defenders, is the most heralded girls high school soccer player ever produced by the area – and perhaps the state. She was named Alaska's Gatorade Player of the Year for 2011 after scoring 22 goals this season for the Mustangs, who won the CIC tournament last month.

Two weeks ago, Cobb left home for Chula Vista, Calif., where she trained with her United States U-20 squad that played Japan on June 8 and 11 (see story page 13). The team was training in anticipation of the FIFA U-20 World Cup that will be held in Uzbekistan next year.

After training with the national team, Cobb returned home, where she plans to work out in advance of her first season at Division I Duke University, which reached the third round of the NCAA tournament last season.

"I'm going to just train my hardest. I want to be back on top in that environment," Cobb said following the state tournament, where the Mustangs finished fifth.

As a player with a national reputation as an elite goal scorer, Cobb said she has "lofty goals" that include winning an NCAA title.

"I want to start, and I want to score, and I want to win a lot of games," she said.

An honor roll student at Chugiak, Cobb – who wants to be a nurse – said she's looking forward to both the physical and academic challenges at Duke.

"It's a great academic school, and I think I'll fit in great in that environment," she said.

Cobb's high school teammate and co-captain Kendra Bulawa won't be competing on the world stage, but she's still got a big mountain to climb. Bulawa is heading to the Division II Colorado School of Mines, which is located in Golden, Colo., a town whose elevation is more than 5,600 feet above sea level.

Bulawa also graduated with honors from Chugiak, and she's heading to a school that ranks as one of the top engineering colleges in the nation.

But while she'll be hitting the books hard, Bulawa – a heady defender with a powerful right leg – said she's mostly concerned with reaching her peak fitness level before practice starts Aug. 1. She said coaches at the school have already got her set up with a training program.

"I got like a 10 page printout and I'll be starting Monday or Tuesday," she said following Chugiak's final state game on Saturday, May 29.

photo:Sports

Bulawa

Bulawa said she doesn't think the altitude will be too much of a factor.

"It shouldn't take me too long to get acclimated," she said. "Hopefully."

The final member of the trio, Eagle River's Rebecca Boggs is also heading to a prestigious Colorado school, the University of Colorado at Boulder. Boggs (who also graduated with honors) signed with the Division I soccer school earlier this spring after completing a comeback from knee surgery after an injury last season threatened to derail her promising career as a midfielder.

photo:Sports

Cobb

Boggs said her plan to get ready for the challenges of high-altitude soccer is simple: have fun and climb as much as possible.

"My family is going on a road trip," she said.

Along the way, she said she hopes to stay in shape by hiking whatever peak is nearest.

"I'm going to be running a lot of mountains," she said.

Wolves coach Lauren Mason said having Boggs back on the field this season made a world of difference for Eagle River, which finished with its best regular season record in school history.

"She'll be missed," Mason said.

Cobb scores in U.S. win

2011 Chugiak grad Kelly Cobb scored a goal to help the U.S. National U-20 soccer team defeat Japan on June 8 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

Cobb, 18, scored in the fourth minute to put the U.S. up 1-0 when she hit a shot from 22 yards out, according to a press release issued by the team.

Also scoring for the U.S. was midfielder Morgan Brian, who scored the game-winner in the 22nd minute after Japan had tied things on an Akane Saito strike in the 13th.

The U.S. lost the second game between the two nations on June 11 by a 3-2 score. Cobb notched an assist and played the entire match for the U.S.

In her last six games playing at the international level, Cobb has four goals and two assists.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.