By Bob Narang

Sydney Downs searched for an event to display her skills and spur her desire to play in college.

That’s how the Stagg junior goalie found herself at the popular PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase in 2016 and again last Friday at The Max in McCook.

Diving all over the indoor turf and snatching save after save, Downs caught the attention of numerous college coaches last year and again this year at the 15th Annual showcase, which features high school boys and girls players from all over Illinois.

Downs, a three-year starter, took part in the Senior Star Girls portion of the showcase that featured junior and senior players ranging from all pockets of the state. Each of the players, which also included freshmen and sophomores in the Rising Star Girls, took part in physical combine testing (30-yard dash/5-10-5 agility test) and played in three games.

“Each time I’m here, I work on playing technically sound, my footwork and working off the ball,” Downs said. “I also focus on communicating with players from different high schools from different parts of the state, which is something unique about this event.”

Professional goalie coach and Camp Shutout owner Stan Anderson, who ran Friday’s goalie combine, noted Downs is a good example of a player benefitting from attending the PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase.

“Sydney is very, very good and this certainly helps her and other girls to get exposure with college coaches,” Anderson said.

Glenbard East girls coach Kent Overbey had a number of his players attend the event. Overbey pointed out that 35 players from his program over the past 10 years have moved on to play in college, with seven seniors currently committed or will commit from next year’s team.

“There are many positives for the athletes that attend the PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase,” Overbey said. “It’s an opportunity for our athletes to get out in front of different college coaches.

“College camps can be good, if you want to attend that school. But most players, especially the younger players, have no idea where they want to go to school.

“This is a great way to get in front of a ton of coaches all at once. On a deeper level, it’s a great opportunity to grow as a player. For our youngest players who attend, this is a great way to get their feet wet competing with and against older competition.”

Crete-Monee girls coach Kathy Siefert was one of the many local high school coaches helping at The Max. In her second consecutive year at the event, she echoed the good opportunity to play soccer, showcase your talents to college coaches and broaden your skills.

“It was great to see student athletes coming together from so many different high schools to play with one another,” Siefert said. “There were a lot of great ‘soccer talks’ that took place between games about positioning, formations and adjustments that needed to be made. It was pretty neat to hear those from groups of players that didn’t know one another prior to meeting today. Moments like those help build leadership and working together skills.”

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