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Dream at your own risk
Bobbi Jo Schlick wants to crush some dreams.
The Jackson senior and Southeast Missouri State recruit has had enough of other people ending her soccer season in heart-breaking fashion.
The Indians have won a district title five years in a row.
They have lost sectional games five years in a row.
Last season, it was a 1-0 loss to Hazelwood Central in a game Jackson felt it dominated that sent Schlick and her teammates home.
"That game is always in the back of my mind just because it was such a big loss because last year our team was very good and we thought we had the chance to go on and everything," she said. "We had a good bracket to be in and stuff."
The disappointment has been replaced by a new resolve.
"When I came into this season this year, I knew I had to put that all behind to concentrate on this season," Schlick said. "That team crushed our dreams, so I want to be the team that's the underdog and crush other people's dreams when we make it that far."
Schlick is a picture of calm as she says this. There is no emotional need for retribution in her voice. No boastful tone. No change in her expression. She prefers not to think too much about her opposition, so the underdog role suits her as well as any.
"I don't want to think our opponents are good or bad," she said. "I want to concentrate on just how good our team is. I don't really want to know how good the other team is or like if our coach scouts them and stuff because if I go in thinking they're a bad team, I might play bad. So I just go in with a positive attitude just about our team and how good we're going to try to play."
One thing is for certain -- Schlick is going to try to play fast.
"She's a pretty quick player on the ball -- with and without the ball -- and that makes her very dangerous," Jackson co-coach Justin McMullen said.
Schlick was a first team all-state forward a year ago after collecting 39 points, including 16 goals. In February, she signed a letter of intent to play for coach Heather Nelson at Southeast Missouri State next season.
"My ball-handling skills have developed over time," Schlick said, describing her strengths on the soccer field. "When I was little, it was my speed because with track, I went to state and I went to a national competition and everything, so my speed has always been my biggest asset with soccer and then my skills later on developed."
Schlick showed off her blend of speed and skill in her team's 5-0 win over Marion on Thursday at the Noon Optimist soccer tournament at Central.
Schlick ventured away from her customary home in the middle of the field to receive a pass near the sideline.
She effortlessly streaked ahead of one defender, but two more raced to cut off her path to the goal, eventually succeeding in slowing her down, but never in forcing her to stop.
Schlick, who already had scored once in the game and would score again before it was over, improvised. With the ball still at her feet, she spotted some space to her left and somehow, through the sea of legs and feet surrounding her, threaded the ball into the open.
Then it was time for the speed. One side-step and she darted through the crowd, beating everyone on the field back to the ball. A few more dribbles toward the center of the field and Schlick delivered a pass past one last defender to a wide-open teammate inside the box.
"I've gotten a lot better at knowing when to use it and when not to use it and just look for somebody else open," Schlick said, referring to her speed.
The shot was mishit and sent over the goal in an unworthy ending to an ooh-inducing play from Schlick, but that's not what is important. Shots miss, but scoring opportunities are the creation of soccer savants.
"She's a smart player on the field and she does a lot of things to make her teammates better, which makes her a special player," McMullen said. "Anytime you can get a player like that that makes people around you better, you have something special in a player."
While her role on the field mostly has been unchanged this season, Schlick said that she feels a greater responsibility to be a leader on a team full of new faces, many of whom haven't played together before.
"Seniors on our team, younger girls definitely look up to us," she said. "We try to be good role models off the field and on the field because we kind of show them the ropes and let them see what they'll have to be doing when they're seniors. The biggest thing we do is give them confidence because when you're on the ball and on the field you have to have confidence."
Beyond her past success and her future in Division I soccer, Schlick's attitude is appreciated by McMullen.
"She's a self-motivated player and that allows her to become a very good leader," McMullen said. "There's nothing that she's going to think that she's above the team by any means ... and her teammates respect that."
Schlick reluctantly shared her one personal goal for the season when asked, but was much more interested in talking about her goal for the Indians.
"I want to try to make all-state again," she said. "If not, it's OK, but I want to try to accomplish that for myself.
"My team goal for our team is to win districts again, obviously. That's what every team wants to do."
If they succeed, maybe she and her teammates can start crushing other people's dreams.