AT FIRST glanceBraintree (Mass.) High attacker Amy Caldwell--all of 5'1" and 105pounds--hardly looks like one of the nation's top soccer players. But Caldwell,17, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year for Massachusetts, comes up bigwhen it counts.
The sport is afamily affair for Caldwell, whose father, Larry, played for the HartfordBicentennials of the North American Pro Soccer League. Her older brother,Keith, 23, was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of MLS; sister Andrea, 20, is acollege star; and younger brother Scott, 15, attends the IMG Soccer Academy inBradenton, Fla. The Caldwell clan often played spirited games of two-on-two inthe family's basement, where the walls were padded with old mattresses."We're so competitive," says Amy, "that those games were prettyintense."
That basementtraining has served her well. As a junior, Caldwell--who orally committed toBoston College in May--scored 43 goals and led Braintree to the finals of the2005 Division 1 state tournament. But the night before the title game againstnationally ranked Minnechaugh High, Caldwell got a call. She had previouslybeen named to the under-16 national team and was told that if she wasn't intraining camp in Florida the next day she would be replaced. Caldwell had tochoose between leaving her Braintree teammates before their biggest game ormissing a chance to showcase her skills on a national stage. Caldwell stayed.But as kickoff approached, she was despondent. Minutes before the game started,Braintree coach Fred Marks ordered his players back on the bus, and in aneffort to rally them he cranked up Madonna's Like a Prayer, the team's song.Before long everyone, including Caldwell, was fired up and bumping to theMaterial Girl. "They were so loud the bus was rocking," says Marks.
The plan worked.After falling behind 2-0, Braintree tied the game in the final minutes ofregulation. Caldwell scored the game-winner in OT. Later she was invited to theunder-17 national team's training camp in January. "I don't have anyregrets," she says. "I wasn't going to leave my team."
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