Soccer recruiting Storey has happy end

The fact that Carlee Storey will be playing soccer in college isn't much of a surprise.

The revelation that the Phoenix High standout received a full scholarship to play at Samford University, a Division I program in Birmingham, Ala., well that can't help but raise a few eyebrows.

It's not that Storey isn't skilled, quite the contrary.

The 5-foot-7 dynamo was a first-team all-District 6 selection in helping lead the Class 4A Pirates to the state playoffs last season, and she is undeniably the top player on her team and among the best in the conference this season.

But Phoenix, Ore., is a far cry from Alabama, especially when you consider recruiting for women's soccer doesn't exactly carry the same kind of budgetary backing as, say, football or basketball.

That's where Storey got clever, and the fine line blurs between being recruited and doing the recruiting for yourself.

As part of a senior project involving sports marketing, Storey got together with her father, Bill Storey, Phoenix soccer coach Jerry North and photographer/videographer Sean Burke to compile a sports resumé, if you will, on her soccer and softball exploits.

The video, produced by Burke, was then sent out to colleges Storey had interest in attending, and the rest is history.

Besides providing examples of skilled work at center midfield, the video was packaged with information about her attending soccer camps at Texas, Oregon and Southern Oregon universities last summer.

"If I hadn't taken the measure that I did to get my name out there and go places like the Texas camp, I most definitely would not be getting a scholarship to go play soccer next year at such a big school," she says without hesitation. "I just feel really lucky."

The video helped her get her foot in the door at the Texas camp. Even though the Longhorns were unable to find a spot for her in their program, she caught the eye of Samford assistant coach Jay Yelton, who asked for a copy of her recruitment video.

"It's mostly just clips of some of my high school career but mostly from my club team (FC Phoenix)," says Storey, 18. "Sean did everything and all I did was play."

Even with all the time invested, she still didn't think much was going to come from the project beyond fulfilling her senior commitment.

"I was kind of counting it out because most of the people getting their scholarships now are getting recruited at such a younger age," says Storey. "We were just crossing our fingers and hoping something would happen, so it was pretty exciting when it did."

The video apparently opened some eyes to Storey's potential at Samford, and she flew to Alabama at her own expense in August to meet with head coach Todd Yelton, whose brother had shown him Storey's video.

"They said pretty much what caught their eye was my work ethic and that they knew I was a coachable player," Storey says of the unofficial visit.

A tour of the campus and visiting with current Samford players only confirmed that a trip east might be in her best interest. Fortunately, the Southern Conference Bulldogs — currently 6-8-2 overall and 5-1-2 in conference — had left one scholarship spot open in hopes that Storey was as good as self-advertised.

"It actually ended up being 10 times as much as I expected it to be," Storey says of the visit. "The school was amazing and I was like in awe the whole time. They gave me a week to decide and I called the second day I got back."

Having her future cleared up has obviously been a weight off Storey's shoulders, and it was much-welcomed since she's currently carrying the burden of being one of only two seniors on the Phoenix roster. The Pirates graduated 10 seniors from last year's team and have struggled to a 3-8 league record and 3-9 overall ledger with six freshmen and a handful of sophomores in the starting lineup.

"I'm a really competitive person, so it's been a really big adjustment this year," says Storey.

"Our record isn't any indication of Carlee," adds North, who took over the Phoenix program last year. "It doesn't matter where I put her, she has such a presence out there that she demands a lot of attention. She gets double- and triple-teamed all the time, even when she's primarily playing defense. She is just such a force out there."

Storey has essentially grown up with North as her coach, beginning at the U-8 recreational stage when she played on his Jacksonville boys team. Two former teammates, Humberto Cortez and Matt North, currently play for South Medford's varsity team.

"Her skills are second to none," says North. "She reminds me a lot of Mia Hamm, she plays with that type of ball skill. She has good speed but just phenomenal, phenomenal field awareness. She knows where the ball's going to go before it ever gets there."

To help this year's squad, North has had to put Storey back at sweeper, but that still hasn't stopped her from scoring five of the team's eight goals in this rebuilding campaign.

Beyond Storey's obvious in-game abilities, North says one of her best attributes has been in her leadership and understanding of the circumstances surrounding her senior year.

"I'm sure she's probably disappointed and had high hopes to get to state in her last year," says the coach, "but she has never once complained or gotten on the girls because they don't have the experience and stuff she's been used to. She has done nothing but mentor them along and been supportive."

And maybe given them and others ideas on how to sell themselves in order to continue playing at a higher level.

It's a process that seemingly is happening more and more because people have access to camcorders and movie-making programs on their home computers.

"It's awful tough to get scholarships," says North. "For her to go back to Alabama and get one speaks volumes about her and her skills."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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