2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Girls’ soccer: Odom playing well beyond her years

Published: May 14, 2014, 12:42 am, by Scott Kaniewski

Jade Odom calmly scooped up the soccer ball with less than two minutes remaining during Tuesday night’s eventual 1-0 Class 5A quarterfinal playoffs victory over No. 6 Arapahoe.

Odom and her Pine Creek teammates were on their heels as the frantic Warriors were scratching, clawing and desperately trying to find a game-tying goal in a win-or-go-home scenario. The Warriors were controlling play in the game’s final minutes.

Pine Creek freshman Jade Odom fields the ball in the first half. The Pine Creek Eagles defeated the Arapahoe Warriors 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A girls state tournament Tuesday. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

Pine Creek freshman Jade Odom fields the ball in the first half. The Pine Creek Eagles defeated the Arapahoe Warriors 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A girls state tournament Tuesday. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

Yet, there was Odom. Coolly grabbing the ball, offering a calming glance to her teammates and gripping the ball for that extra second that only a veteran goalie would seemingly do in a high-pressure situation.

“Yeah, I was definitely trying to calm our team down because the intensity was high,” Odom said. “Like, sure we needed high intensity, but the pressure on ourselves was so high and we needed to bring it down a little bit and just calm down so we could get the ball up and move on.”

Words of a true veteran.

However, Odom is nowhere near veteran status. She’s a freshman.

She’s so talented that Pine Creek coach John Frederick already is comparing Odom to one of the Eagles’ greatest goalies, Pine Creek hall of famer Carmen McDermott.

Odom has posted 10 of the Eagles’ school record-tying 11 shutouts this season. She lowered her goals against average to .461, the lowest in program history, and raised her save percentage to 90 percent, the second-highest in Pine Creek history. She has yet to allow a goal this postseason, as the Eagles have outscored their opponents 8-0 to advance to the 5A semifinals.

“She is a really smart goalkeeper,” Frederick said. “I don’t think we have had a goalkeeper that ready this quick. Carmen was just a great goalkeeper and could just dive and all that stuff. But as far as smarts and where she is at in her ability to make decisions, Jade is on that path and may end up being our smartest goaltender by the time she is a senior for sure, or even by next year.”

Frederick knew he was getting a talented athlete at the beginning of the season, but it’s been the poise, intelligence and positioning of Odom, who also plays basketball for Pine Creek, that has left him impressed.

Odom made arguably her largest save of the postseason when she robbed Arapahoe’s Maggie Sexton from in close on Tuesday to keep the game scoreless with eight minutes remaining in the first half. Sexton had gained possession of the ball following a scrum in front of the Pine Creek net off a corner kick and had a beautiful scoring chance from the left side before Odom threw her hands high in the air to swat Sexton’s scorcher aside.

“That one is on pure reflexes,” Frederick said. “It’s about her being smart and being in the right spot.”

Things could have been completely different if Sexton had found a way to bury the shot and give the Warriors a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

Arapahoe coach Kirk Bast could only shake his head.

“She looks to be a very good athlete,” he said. “She is good on her feet for a kid being that young.”

Odom rarely looked rattled. She was more of a calming presence, rather than a rookie goalie showing the nerves of inexperience.

During the heat of the Arapahoe late-game push, Odom snatched a shot on goal from Warriors leading-
scorer Lauren Conley during one rush, before standing tall in net and forcing the senior’s next attempt high and off the crossbar.

She also hasn’t been afraid to be the aggressor, registering 21 tackles in the past two games, and often creeps out of her net to scoop the ball away from her opponents or to get in a better position to force a poor shot.

She has 10 saves in the postseason.

Odom also has had the benefit of 2013 all-state selection and 2014 captain Jennifer Kahle and Emma Contino locking down the backline.

“Our team is unbelievable,” Odom said. “My back line is so good and they listen to me. They talk within themselves and they motivate each other to get the ball up and get a goal for our team.”

Frederick called Kahle and Contino the two mainstays of the team’s defense and the reason a team like Arapahoe couldn’t use its speed and offensive skill to get through to Odom cleanly.

Tuesday night’s offensive hero, Reece Hummel, added that the Eagles are “blessed” to have such a talented defense and goalie.

“I love my defense,” she said. “They have saved us from everything. If we didn’t have them, oh gosh, but Jade is amazing. She knows how to keep them organized in the back. Jen and Kendall (Lucero) as our sweepers, the whole thing just completely is great.”

Frederick remembers one save in particular that sticks out in his mind from his freshman keeper.

“She had an awesome one against Mountain Vista,” he said. “She laid completely out and just got enough to deflect the ball off the post.”

The save came in overtime and the Eagles would go on to win 4-3 last month. Mountain Vista (15-1-2) is also a team the Eagles likely may see in the 5A state finals if Pine Creek can get past No. 10 Ralston Valley and the No. 4 Golden Eagles take care of business against No. 8 Columbine on Saturday.

All of this season is still shocking to Odom, she admits. Odom never expected her high school soccer career to begin the way it has.

“I didn’t. I really didn’t,” Odom said. “It feels pretty amazing. I am living my dream with my team and that is the only goal (winning a state title) I want right now.”

Justin Felisko, The Gazette