Don’t tell Natalie Johnson and Dominique Martinez that fall is the offseason for girls high school soccer.
The two Havelock High players have been selected to participate in the Olympic Development Program. Both have made region III teams that include players from 12 states throughout the Southeast.
Johnson, a senior, was selected for the 1996 team, while Martinez, a sophomore, was selected for the 1998 team based on the years they were born.
Each team has 32 players, selected from an initial pool of about 400 players during a week-long camp. They are just two of eight players in the state selected for Olympic Development Program teams.
Of the group of 32 players, 18 are selected to play in particular tournaments throughout the United States, Europe and South America on a rotating basis.
Johnson has already been selected to participate in an upcoming tournament in Florida, while Martinez is still awaiting word on any possible tournaments.
“I didn’t know how to react,” Johnson said of her selection. “I was really surprised. I didn’t expect myself to get picked, but I was really excited though. It’s definitely something to get really excited about.”
Johnson led Havelock with 20 goals and nine assists last season. She said the experience of the selection process and tryout camp helped her skills.
“It definitely helped me improve my game,” she said. “I’m playing with a bunch of girls I’ve never met before in my life. They expect us to play together and work together. Learning all their different techniques and working with them, that’s definitely hard. It’s helped me become a more confident player.”
Martinez, who tallied 18 goals and 11 assists last season as a freshman for the Rams, said she didn’t know quite what to expect when she attended the tryout camp.
“It was hard, but with all my family and friends supporting me, I got through it,” she said. “That’s what kept me going.”
She thought it was neat that both she and Johnson were selected when other bigger cities failed to get a representative on the teams.
“It’s very cool,” Martinez said. “No one really knows where Havelock is. To be picked for that and to be from a small town is cool.”
Martinez said her selection has already gotten the attention of college coaches.
“I’ve already gotten a lot of emails from coaches, so hopefully it will help me get into schools,” she said.
Johnson expects to sign with a college this year and hopes her selection has an even bigger impact.
“At events, we get looked at by U.S. national coaches,” she said. “That’s crazy. I can’t believe that’s happening.”
Blair Pearce, from West Carteret High School, was also selected for the program.