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The road less traveled

C ortney Helms never scored a goal for a high school soccer team. She never had an assist. She never made a save.

She never even started a match.

Yet Helms will attend Millikin University, where plans to join the women’s soccer team and play for coach Emily Johnson.

The reason Helms has a blank stat line for her prep soccer career is that Seneca High School, from which she graduated in May, did not offer the sport. Helms was a standout in girls basketball and track and field at SHS while playing for the Seneca Youth Soccer organization in the summer.

“Soccer is the sport I like the most. I’ve played it since I was really little. I put some information on a recruiting website, and that’s how coach Johnson found my name and figured out that I wanted to play,” Helms said. “I kind of felt like not having soccer at my school hurt my chances of going to college, but ... I was playing in (Seneca Youth Soccer) the whole time.”

Helms had long hoped to play college soccer — though she admits she felt at times that she may have a greater opportunity to advance in track and field. She created a profile on a recruiting website, and while it generated some responses, few were personalized or showed real interest.

“They basically said, ‘Hey, come to our school. We might have a spot for you if you want to walk on and try out,’” Helms said.

According to Helms, Johnson contacted her through the site and showed real interest. It led the Helms visiting Millikin during a soccer recruiting event. Helms says that after that day, she decided she wanted to go there.

“Cortney’s athleticism and speed will be an asset to our program,” Johnson said in an email. “I believe her character and personality will be the most impactful for our team.. She is hard-working, dedicated and a team player. We are very happy that she has chosen to attend Millikin.”

Seneca Youth Soccer coach Pete Carrier says he has coached Helms since she was around 10 years old, when he brought her up to a 12-and-under team. He later promoted her to a 14-and-under team a year early.

“She plays sweeper, and she’s really good at reading the other team. ... She knows everything about that position,” Carrier said of Helms.

“She’s a very good leader. ... She’s not afraid to yell. I would put other players back with her that haven’t played defense before, and she gets on them right away and gets them where they’re supposed to be.”

Helms says that Johnson has not said much about what position she will play or what her role will be. She is part of a large recruiting class, so she expects there to be a high level of competition for playing time.

One place in which Helms knows exactly how she wants to fit in is the classroom. She plans to major in athletic training.

“I’ve wanted to do it since eighth grade,” Helms said. “I’ve been helping with our trainer (Christopher Jackson) here at the school. I help him out with football, wrestling — any time I can, when I’m not in a sport.”

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