Courtney Carter aims to bring Firebirds first sectional playoff win in 10 years

Phoenix junior Courtney Carter prior to a varsity girls soccer game on Oct. 14 at John C. Birdlebough High School. Josh St. Croix photo.

PHOENIX — Courtney Carter quit soccer after playing for her first Phoenix youth league, but luckily for her and the Firebirds, she gave the sport a second try.

The Phoenix-John C. Birdlebough High School junior has tallied 14 goals and seven assists in her fourth varsity soccer season, accounting for more than half her team’s scoring entering the Section 3 playoffs.

Phoenix (7-6-1 overall) is the No. 12 seed for the Class B tournament and was slated to open earlier this week at fifth-seeded Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.

Carter was encouraged by her brother, Jacob — a senior on the Phoenix varsity boys team — to pick up soccer again around the age of eight after not liking the sport in her initial attempt a few years prior.

She obliged and soon after, quickly became engaged in travel leagues and developed the goal to shine for the Firebirds on her way to a collegiate soccer career.

“From then on, I fell in love with the game, and no looking back,” Courtney Carter said. “The coaches believed in me, and I started doing a lot of training on the side and just built my confidence.”

Carter led Phoenix in scoring and goals for the second year in a row and third time in her four varsity seasons, recording 38 goals since being promoted to varsity as an eighth-grade standout.

She has been aiming to bring the Firebirds their first sectional playoff win in more than 10 years after helping the squad finish with a .500 record or better for the third straight season to mark the best stretch in the last decade for the program.

“She’s the battery of our team,” Phoenix coach Jason Stenta said. “She covers all the ground, flying to tackles and if someone gets beat, she is there to help them out. She plays in the midfield but she’s a forward, a back, she just covers so much ground.”

Carter trains each offseason with the Syracuse Development Academy on a national travel club soccer team. She organized offseason team workouts this past summer and spends much of her free time working out or improving her soccer skills with solo drills.

Stenta, who played NCAA Division I men’s soccer at Binghamton University and later worked as an assistant coach for the Bearcats and Division II Le Moyne, will offer his experience to aid Carter through the upcoming recruiting process for a player he believes has displayed clear college potential.

“If I put a monitor on her, she’s probably running six or seven miles in a game, and you see that at the professional level,” Stenta said. “So, it’s the stuff that she does when no one is watching is what separates her. She does the dirty work.”

Carter — a team captain and returning Section 3 All-Star who also plays basketball and outdoor track and field — has helped lead a youthful Firebirds squad this season as the only junior alongside just two seniors.

She is aiming to extend their season with a long-awaited sectional playoff victory with quarterfinals slated for this weekend.

“I think we have a really young team and we’re starting to do good,” Carter said. “It started rough but we’re getting better, getting more aggressive.”

She added: “We just have a goal to go out every game and always play our hardest, no matter the result.”

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