Chambersburg's Claire Jacobs achieves her goals
Players can find motivation in many forms.
For Chambersburg's Claire Jacobs, it was the simple realization that she really wanted to play soccer in college.
With that knowledge, and knowing it was a goal that was going to take some effort to achieve, Jacobs set to work. She used the off-season to hone her skills and improve her game and the result was a player operating at a much higher level in the fall of 2015.
The new version of Jacobs helped her Trojan team to a respectable record in the rugged Mid Penn Commonwealth Division, got colleges interested in her and also earned her Public Opinion Player of the Year honors.
A year ago, Jacobs had three assists and was a P.O. Honorable Mention pick. This fall, she raised her totals to three goals and seven assists. But it was her inventive play in the midfield that drew the most attention.
Chambersburg coach Eric Guyer said, "Claire really stepped up her game; she was phenomenal. She improved every year, but the level of her play from last year to this year was huge."
"When I decided I wanted to play in college, I knew I was going to have to focus on soccer," Jacobs said. "I worked hard in the off-season and I had to give 100 percent all the time when I was playing."
That she did. At times she was like a whirling dervish in the middle of the field, running down loose balls, cutting off opponent's passes, making strong tackles, transitioning her team from defense to offense, using her foot skills to maneuver around her markers and making smart passes to teammates.
"She would fly around and challenge everything," Guyer said. "Her fitness level was up and she seemed to be everywhere. Sometimes she would go so hard she would go down with leg cramps and when she went out it was obvious how much of a difference she made."
So what did Jacobs do to cause the transformation?
Jacobs said, "We played in a lot of pickup games, I was on a good club team (HMMS Eagle FC Blaze) and we played in tournaments, and I practiced a lot.
"I worked on my accuracy with passing, and I worked on playing at a quicker speed. I know that's how I need to be able to play in college. The first touch and playing with speed are so important."
She also developed a better sense of looking up to find her open teammates before she passed the ball.
Guyer said, "She made some really nice diagonal passes, splitting the defenders and playing the ball into space. And she learned when to play to feet and when to play to space."
Chambersburg ended up with a 7-10-1 record, an improvement from 4-14 a year ago. The Trojans were also much more competitive in the Commonwealth, compiling a 6-8 record, up from 2-12 the year before.
"I think we definitely did better than we expected," Jacobs said. "But we still struggled with our mind set. If we thought we could beat a team, we'd play well. We really had no idea at the beginning how we'd do, but we realized that we could play with these teams. But we didn't always have the confidence and if we'd had that for all the games we could have had a better record.
"But the good thing is we had a positive attitude and we all got along -- and that was something we struggled with last year."
Jacobs said she's been playing soccer "ever since I can remember." She likes the aspect of playing on a team and working together.
"It's motivational," she said, "because you can rely on your teammates to pick you up if you're not having a good game. And you have to go 100 percent to help them, too."
Jacobs is weighing some college choices, with Division I Radford (in Christiansburg, Va.) and Division II West Chester at the top of her list. She hopes to remain a midfielder, either an attacking mid or a defensive mid ("I prefer attacking, though," she said).
And she already knows what she wants to work on during this off-season.
"Settling the ball on the first touch is huge because you can't play quick if you can't do that," Jacobs said. "And I need to work on my shot."
Don't bet against her taking another big leap forward by next fall.
Claire Jacobs file
Parents: Lauren and Bo Jacobs
Interests: She likes doing things with her friends and family, she is in the National Honor Society, and she likes to eat (fruit, steak and ice cream are her favorites).
Surprising fact: Chris Brown is her favorite musical artist.
Favorite team: U.S. Women's National Team
Favorite player: Alex Morgan
Statistics: Jacobs scored 3 goals, and two of them were game-winners (against Central Dauphin and Carlisle), and added 7 assists ... She was named to the Mid Penn Commonwealth Division First Team.