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HS girls soccer: Stackel’s magic touch keeps Golden Knights ticking

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COPENHAGEN — Just how much does Claire Stackel love the sport of soccer?

She’s been virtually playing the game since the age of 5 with several of her current Copenhagen teammates.

Despite the fact that she’s a prolific point producer in the Frontier League — the answer is simple for the ultra-competitive Stackel — winning games.

“I like scoring, I like the glory,” she said. “But I don’t mind getting an assist or even when I don’t get an assist — as long as we win, that’s good. Just winning, that’s what I really like.”

That’s just what Stackel, a sophomore midfielder, and her Golden Knights teammates have done thus far this campaign. At 7-0, they once again lead the league’s “D” Division and are fresh off a 4-0 victory over “C” Division leader Thousand Islands on Wednesday.

“I started obviously because my mom put me into it when I was younger,” Claire said of her mother, Katherine, who coaches the Copenhagen team. “I’m really competitive, so I like to win. So once I started getting better at soccer, I started liking it more because when you’re winning and beating teams it makes it fun.”

With her experience having played at the varsity level since the seventh grade, Claire is clearly the leader of this Copenhagen team.

“It’s a little different because most of us have been together for three years now,” said Stackel, who garnered second-team All-State honors last season. “So we kind of know how each other plays and basically the whole preseason we worked on possession and technical stuff, so that’s helped our game a lot.”

There’s no denying Stackel’s offensive production on the soccer field. As a freshman, she led the Frontier League in points last season with 45 (17 goals-11 assists) and started this campaign red-hot in scoring.

She again paces the league — this time in all three categories — goals (15), assists (14) and points (44) — as well as again establishing herself as one of the top scorers in Section 3.

After Stackel tallied 24 points over the first four games, including 13 goals — during which she had a hand in all but seven of her team’s first 31 tallies — the Golden Knights have spread the offensive wealth around a bit more since.

“If they’re double and triple-teaming her, that means someone else is open and she’s still able to get the pass to them,” Katherine Stackel said. “Above anything else, she is tactically sound — she reads the game and she passes better than any other player I’ve ever coached.”

Defensively, the Golden Knights have allowed only two goals this season while posting five shutouts.

“We’ve grown up with each other playing soccer,” sophomore midfielder Emma Roberts said. “We find each other on the field, we know what each other is doing. Most of us are sophomores, and we know each other really well.”

Claire has put up these numbers playing from her central midfield position. There’s little doubt this is where the team’s success originates.

“She’s intense, but we’re all intense,” Roberts said of Claire. “She’s definitely a leader for us.”

Along with Roberts playing as a defensive midfielder, offensive midfielder Brooke Spaulding, also a sophomore, completes Copenhagen’s alignment in the middle.

“Since I scored so many goals, they’re man-marking me now,” Claire said. “This gives Emma more room to step up, so this pressure is good because it gives every in the middle opportunities. ... I think we have really good chemistry.”

After playing basketball and trying out softball a few years ago, soccer is clearly her primary focus year round. She plays for the Empire Revolution Syracuse-Cortland team out of the Empire United Soccer Academy. Stackel won the New York West State Cup and the Region I championship in Rhode Island in June before competing in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Kansas in July.

The memory of Copenhagen’s 1-0 loss to eventual state champion Poland in last year’s sectionals still burns bright for Claire Stackel and her teammates.

“Most of us were two-year starters, so we really weren’t that young, although we were still young,” Claire said. “It was just disappointing losing 1-0 in the semifinals. We have to keep working hard so we can get there again.”

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