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L-E’s Osborne eager to accept new role at SMC

Posted: May 26, 2016 3:38 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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WHITNEY OSBORNE SIGNED a National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and soccer-playing pursuits at Spartanburg Methodist College while flanked by her parents, Wallace and Jenny Osborne. Also on hand for the former Lady Demons’ soccer standout’s signing ceremony were, from left, Lugoff-Elgin athletics director Matt Campbell, Spartanburg Methodist College women’s soccer head coach Dan Kenneally, Lady Demons’ head soccer coach Carl Spoto and Lugoff-Elgin principal Worth Thomasson.

Anytime a high school player is good enough to sign on to play a particular sport at the college level, it leads to their former coach having to find someone else to plug into their place.

For Lugoff-Elgin head girls’ soccer coach Carl Spoto, finding a replacement for Whitney Osborne might require his filling the void with more than just one player.

Earlier this month, Osborne’s departure from the Lady Demons was made official when the senior signed a national Letter of Intent to study and play soccer at Spartanburg Methodist College.

Osborne’s graduation Saturday morning takes a versatile player from Spoto’s program and one who could fill in gaps which the Lady Demons had in their lineup.

“Whitney meant a tremendous amount to our program,” Spoto said of his four-year starter.  “She started at different positions; forward, midfield and sometimes, on defense. She is the fastest player we’ve had in all her four years on varsity. She sets the tone for the team as to how hard we have to play. When you see how hard she plays, you can’t help but try to follow her example. 

“She’s always been her own hardest critic. There many games where I’ve had to remind her that she played very well despite the outcome of a match.”

In each of her four seasons wearing the red and blue, Osborne consistently ranked among the team’s top scorers. And her play hardly went unnoticed as SMC head coach Dan Kenneally saw enough from Osborne to start recruiting and, eventually, landing the former Lady Demon standout.

Fortunately for Kenneally, thanks to Osborne’s having played soccer in the Upstate, she was familiar with the territory.

 “I used to play club soccer and I got to know a lot about the area and the coach is amazing,” Osborne said of her first connection to the Spartanburg region and SMC.

From there, Osborne moved on to the recruitment phase and started doing her due diligence on the school and the Pioneers’ women’s soccer program. During her visit, she got to meet Kenneally along with several of her soon-to-be teammates. Once she learned more about the school and her classes, she was sold.

 “I got to meet a couple other girls who played soccer there and they really seem to like it there,” Osborne said. “They’re very energetic, they’re very nice and they told me more about the school which made me really want to go there. They’re really good people.

 “I like that (the school) is not big. There are not too many people there and I can focus on my education. They told me that I would be able to have individual help if I needed it, since I played soccer. It’s going to help me in the long run.”

In her senior campaign at L-E, Osborne helped lead the Lady Demons into the 4A state tournament after having finished third in Region 4. A 2-0 loss to Wade Hampton in the playoffs ended their season.

Osborne started her high school career playing as a forward. But she was soon shifted to midfield. She made a seamless transition to her new post which was made for the good of a team which was searching for the speed which Osborne provided.

At SMC, Osborne will be asked to switch positions again. She anticipates seeing time, possibly as a starter, at defense. Both Osborne and Spoto believe she is more than capable of handling playing in the next-to-last line of defense.

“Being on defense is going to make me more aggressive,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging because I’m going to have to get back and be there with the goalie, all the time. I’m going to have to support her.”

“She certainly has the speed to play at the next level,” Spoto said of Osborne’s probable switch to defense. “Some of the finer parts of passing, especially crossed and chipped balls, will be something she’ll need to work on but she already knows that. 

“She will be fine with a more physical aspect of play; that has never bothered her and I think the fact that she’ll be able to play more physically will help her adjust quicker. She’ll need to work on containing a bit more and not stabbing defensively.”

Saying Osborne is “as competitive as they come,” Spoto said he has no qualms in saying that his former player will play from whistle to whistle in college. “She won’t give up on any play because she knows any play can turn into a scoring play,” he said.

That attitude was instilled into Osborne at a young age by her father, Wallace Osborne, who played soccer in high school and later introduced his daughter to the game at a young age. Osborne said her father has been there to provide advice and encouragement from the moment she took up the sport.

“I was six years old when I started playing and my whole family plays soccer,” she said of her beginnings in the sport.

“It came to me easily. The first thing that came to me was speed because I’ve always been very fast. My dad has always been the person to teach me to do everything I’ve learned until I came here and Coach Spoto and the staff have been the most help to me.”

Osborne was part of a freshman class which helped change the fortunes of Lady Demon soccer which had lost 43 straight matches when she and her teammates got to high school and under Spoto’s tutelage. Since then, L-E has fashioned a 43-45-1 record and started making regular state tournament appearances.

Spoto credited Osborne for helping with his program’s drastic change in fortunes.

“Whitney has just had production for us that will be very hard to replace,” he said of Osborne who served as team captain this past season. “She has been a great team leader, whether she has been a captain or not. She just has a motor that doesn’t quit. She has been an absolute pleasure to coach the past four years and a big reason for the turnaround here at L-E.”

Osborne understands that the game which she grew up loving and playing will change at the college level. She said she is preparing herself, both mentally and physically, for what she is preparing to experience beginning this summer.

 “It’s going to be more aggressive,” she said of how the game will change in college.

“When you play high school, sometimes people call (infractions.) I’ve heard that in college, they’re not going to call it when somebody is shoving your or something like that; you are going to have to play through it. And now, you can’t be saying. ‘Oh, my God, she pushed me down.’ You are going to have to play through it and keep going.”

Another change for Osborne will be the fact that she will now be on her own. Being more than two hours away from home will force her to grow up quickly. It might now have been such a dramatic change had she decided to attend Columbia College, a program which was recruiting her hard.

“I was going to go to Columbia College but the opportunity to go to Spartanburg Methodist was much better,” she said of her decision to travel farther from home to continue her academic and athletic pursuits. 

“I have to realize that I have to leave my parents and grow up. That’s going to be the hardest part. I can’t skip class because I’m tired from playing soccer. I just have to go to class. That’s going to be challenging from being tired from soccer.”

Spoto has seen enough from Whitney Osborne, both on and off the field, to know she will do whatever it takes to become successful at the next level.

“Off the field,” he said, “Whitney is someone who enjoys being around her friends when she’s not working, which is quite a lot.  For someone who plays as hard as she does, she is a very kind and compassionate person.”

Spoto said Osborne almost undergoes a personality transformation once she steps foot on the soccer pitch. That is something which the Lady Demos’ boss said her teammates and SMC’s opponents are about to discover.

“Whitney has the speed to play as part of a system and the fortitude to cover someone one-on-one, if asked to,” Spoto said. “She will also be able to add a dimension of offense out of the defense to help her team attack with more players. She’ll be comfortable switching with more forward players and joining the attack but also possesses the speed and understanding to get back. 

“She will go after a ball in the air with anyone, so her slight stature won’t hurt her at all. She will tackle fairly well and if she gets beat she recovers extremely well. I think SMC is getting a coachable player; one that brings a lot of variables to the table. I think she will make them a stronger, deeper and more versatile team. If I was coaching at a college that size, she’s definitely a player I’d want on my team. She can be a nightmare for the opposition.”

 

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