NEWPORT–Scoring goals in soccer is all about accuracy. In most games that I have watched, there are more balls sent over and wide of the net as opposed to actual shots on goal.
That is why the statisticians keep a "shots at goal" stat.
For Derby Elementary soccer stand-out Emily Willis, things are very different.
Accuracy for her is the normal, not the exception.
Willis is two-time Vermont State Elk’s Girl's Soccer Shoot champion, winning the 9-10 division last year and the 11-12 group this year.
"Last year was a lot of fun," Emily said. "We had to kick the ball into different size goals and I scored 43 points."
"There are five different sized goals, each getting progressively smaller, and the smaller the goal, the higher the points," explained her father Tim Willis.
When she jumped levels this year, the format changed, and she shot on a goal that had a grid on it, where the points vary based on location.
"I like this one better because I get to kick the ball up in the air, and I like kicking the ball. Plus it is easier to practice for," said Willis, who came in fifth at this year's regional event held in Rhode Island.
"At the states I scored a lot of 4's, but at regionals I hit a lot of bars and only scored two 4's."
Said Tim, "The scores were all very even. Emily had twenty-two points and the winner only had twenty-eight. So somebody had to win and somebody had to lose."
The Elks foot the bill for the entire event, paying for traveling expenses, food, lodging, jackets, plus a host of other goodies for the kids.
"It really is a wonderful experience for the kids," Tim said. "She gets to meet kids from all of these states and they correspond after it is all over with."
At her home Emily has a goal she received for her birthday this year that she can practice on.
Since the goal is not regulation size, and let's face it, who has a regulation size in their own yard, the Willis' used a little creative ingenuity, setting up a trampoline that serves as both a back stop and target for Emily to work on her higher shots.
"I practice on it every day and if I put it in the net it is a two, but my goal was to get the ball above the net, which would be a four (at the tournament)," she said.
Emily started playing when she was around three or four years old, just kicking the ball around the yard.
After turning seven, she started to participate in organized soccer, and now plays at Derby Elementary in the fall.
In the spring and summer, she is coached by her father on the U-12 Derby Wildcats, and also plays in the Northern Vermont Youth summer soccer league.
She is usually back on defense when she takes the pitch for her various teams, but with her knack for the net, a possible permanent move to the striker position, which Emily does play occasionally, could come in the future.
Soccer is not the only sport that her accuracy skills are showcased in.
She also won the State Elk's Hoop Shoot two years ago as well.
When asked if there was anyone she wanted to thank for helping her get to where she is, a big smile crept across her face as she exclaimed with great warmth and enthusiasm, "My Dad!"
As soccer season wraps up, basketball season is just beginning and Emily will trade in her cleats for high tops and take to the hardcourts for her Border Hoop team.
A hearty congratulations goes out to Emily for her success over the past two years, and best of luck in the upcoming basketball season.