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A quick note on West York soccer standout Fred Lucas, who was recently named to the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association's all-state team. Lucas said Wednesday that he plans to play college soccer at Shippensburg University. Lucas attracted a wide variety of interest, from Division I schools to more local options (including York College), but eventually chose the chance to stay relatively close to home and play for an up-and-coming Red Raiders squad. Shippensburg went 14-6-1 and won the PSAC title this season, one year it won just a single game. Red Raiders coach Jeremy Spering was named the NSCAA/Mondo Atlantic Region coach of the year. The commitment will be the next step in a unique soccer journey for Fred. In October, I wrote a feature about the West York midfielder, who grew up in Costa Rica and moved to West York before his freshman year. That story has since been archived on our site, but I've posted it after the jump for those interested... ***************************************************** In those first uncertain days, when he was a new kid in a new country, Fred Lucas would grab his soccer ball and go searching for a sense of normalcy. From his uncle's West Philadelphia Street house -- where he and his father were staying -- Fred would walk about five blocks, up to the field in front of West York Middle School. There, he could find a net and all the open grass he could want. He couldn't do much. A 13-year-old all alone doesn't play soccer so much as he tries to imitate it. But he could run sprints -- 20 yards with the ball, then 20 yards without it. He could take a few free kicks. And it felt good. It felt normal. "It would take everything off my mind," he would later say. "I'd just forget about how nervous I was, being alone." That was four years ago. Fred, 17, has matured since then. He's ripened into a goal-busting star for the West York soccer team, which will try for the program's first YAIAA championship Saturday when it meets Dallastown at 7 p.m. at Northeastern High School. His journey to this point has been a unique one. It began in his boyhood home of Costa Rica, where he spent the first 13 years of his life. It eventually took him to a new country, a new culture, a new way of life. Throughout it all, he's had soccer to fall back on. .......... This story begins, of all places, on a hospital bed in San Juan. Fred Lucas Sr. came to the country in 1986 on something of a whim. He had been teaching and coaching high school basketball in Maryland, when he saw an ad seeking English teachers for a school in Costa Rica. "It was a chance to see the world," he said. Fred got the job, and shortly after his arrival he began seeing a Costa Rican woman named Lizbeth. The two had been dating for about five months when one night, Fred returned home to find an intruder in his house. Fred was stabbed four times and rushed to the hospital. Once there, he knew only one phone number to call. When Lizbeth came to see him, Fred Sr. proposed from his hospital bed. Fred Jr. was the second of the couple's three children and even early on was drawn to his country's pastime. When Fred was three or four, Lizbeth bought him a mini-basketball hoop to use around the house. Basketball wasn't quite soccer, of course, but it was gaining popularity in Costa Rica. "He wouldn't touch it," Lizbeth recalled. Soccer became a pillar of life, the focal point of birthdays and weekend get-togethers. During the summers, Fred would stay with Lizbeth's family in Atenas, a palm-dotted town of 5,000 northwest of their home in San Juan. Every afternoon, he'd meet friends on a cement soccer field near the local school and play until dark. But Costa Rica's economy was souring. By the time Fred was a teenager, his dad decided to come back to the United States. The plan was for the rest of the family to eventually join him after a year or two. Fred decided to go along with his father. "I just thought it would be easier to adapt to everything going to high school as a freshman," he said, "rather than going as a sophomore or junior." .......... The first few weeks, Fred said, were the hardest. His mom and siblings were back in Costa Rica, and he missed them. His father and uncle would work most of the day. It was summer. He had no friends to lean on, no school. Nothing to do, it seemed, except play soccer. So Fred would walk up to West York and kick a ball around. And when his dad finally got home from work, the two would drive -- sometimes all over the area -- searching for a patch of grass and a net nobody was using. They'd ignore signs that said "Keep off field." They'd play until someone told them to leave. And it felt good. It felt normal. After about three weeks, Fred signed up to attend a team soccer camp at York College. West York, his new team, was there, and Fred gingerly went up to introduce himself. Language wasn't an issue -- Fred had grown up speaking both English and Spanish, though he considers the latter his first language. But Fred had always been the silent type and was understandably uncertain. "He was a church mouse when I first had him," former Bulldogs coach John Barton said. Luckily, Fred's play spoke for itself. The creative, finesse-based style he learned in Costa Rica made him stand out. After that team camp, Fred told his dad he was determined to make varsity. A few weeks later, he did. "When he came to us, he easily had the most skill on the team as a freshman," Barton said. "He was used to the South American game, which was quick touches and not as physical as the high school game was. "It was a little bit of transition his freshman year, but his talent was such that I couldn't keep him off the field." .......... The numbers speak for themselves. In his four years, Fred has piled up 65 goals and 32 assists. He's scored 30 goals this year alone, having formed a tight partnership with senior teammate Alex Shinsky, the former U.S. U-17 midfielder. Fred is a rare sort of player, one comfortable either pulling the strings from his midfield position or pushing forward to pile up goals. "I think he can play at a top-level D-I school," West York coach Brett Maxwell said. "He hasn't had the exposure that he needs, so we're really pushing to get him some looks. But he's at that level." The exposure is coming. Robert Morris and others have expressed interest. Penn State recently sent an assistant coach to see Fred play. But soccer offered Fred more than goals, more than a physical outlet. It offered acceptance. Soccer was the shoe horn that helped him slip into his new surroundings. His teammates became his friends. They gave him rides home or invited him over to hang out. "They looked out for me," Fred said. "The first year changed me a lot," he said. "I was really independent that whole year. I had to get up in the morning by myself. Go to school. Do my homework. Come home. "I thought about it, what if I didn't play soccer that first year? I don't think I would have met the same people I know today. "It always has been that way. Wherever I go, I'll always have soccer with me." In July 2008, almost exactly one year after Fred and his father moved to West York, they were joined by Lizbeth, David and older sister Elle (now a student at Bloomsburg). Shortly after that, the family moved into its current home in West York. Fred's parents attend every game, and David, 15, is a team manager. Even as chaos unfolds around him on a soccer field -- teammates making runs, balls whizzing by, defenders charging at him -- Fred insists he can pick out two voices: His father cheering in English, his mother in Spanish. .......... A week before he left for the United States, Fred's parents paid 4,000 colones (about eight dollars) for their son to attend a tryout camp with Saprissa, a San Juan-based club in Costa Rica's domestic league. Fred grew up rooting for the team and wears No. 8 in honor of his favorite player, Saprissa midfielder Walter Centeno. A week after he left the country, team representatives called Lizbeth to ask about Fred. They wanted him to come and train in the club's youth program. "I already made the choice, and there was no way I was going to go back," Fred said. "But I also told my dad, 'I kinda wish I had stayed.'" Today, Fred has this vision. This dream, really. Maybe, once he's done playing in college, he can go back to Costa Rica. Maybe he can try out with some professional team down there. Maybe he makes it, maybe he doesn't. "I figure I have nothing to lose," he said. Maybe, just maybe, Fred can bring his soccer journey full circle. jclayton@ydr.com; 771-2045

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