“I try to work hard for my team,” smiled Lewis Mills senior Bailey Pace.
“Working hard” meant 34 goals for the Lewis Mills girls soccer team this year.
In some ways, the feat seems easier considering the Spartans went undefeated in a regular season in which they out-scored opponents 109-6.
Being the top scorer on a team that was head-and-shoulders better than any team it faced in the regular season raises the bar all the higher.
Still, you won’t hear it from Pace.
“What does it take to be a scorer?” she ponders.
“Definitely being a team player,” she answers. “There’s so much energy involved in bringing it all together.”
Pace is the product of hard work and a program that regularly produces champions.
“I started playing when I was able to run,” laughs Pace. “I used to run out onto the field when I was little and my brother was playing.”
In some places, that’s a cute photo opportunity. In Burlington and Harwinton, it’s preparation for a youth soccer program that accommodates hundreds of eager soccer players.
Even before they reach their teens, the most talented graduate from Burlington/Harwinton travel teams to premiere teams.
“I joined Soccerplus Elite right after travel,” said Pace. Soccerplus Elite, based in Farmington fields premiere teams in every age bracket from 11 up.
It’s high level soccer.
Nevertheless, Pace’s personal soccer high point so far came in her freshman year with the Spartans.
“It’s all one big family. Being a newbie and making it to varsity, it was so exciting,” she still enthuses. “The seniors took me under their wings.”
That year the Spartans made it all the way to the Class M finals. Mill lost 1-0 to Suffield in its closest chance for a state title since the Spartans’ Class S runner-up year in 1998.
Pace tried baseball, softball and basketball, but soccer still stuck.
“You get to be creative; there are no set plays,” she says.
Pace, with plenty of teamwork involved, has been creative enough for All-Berkshire League selections the past two years and an All-State berth this year.
She expects to keep playing in college, possibly majoring in occupational therapy, with no particular preference for divisions.
“Division III is getting harder,” she says.
Whatever the school or division, it’s going to be much more physical than the Berkshire League.
“I like to be aggressive,” she smiles.