Aspen soccer player going for three-peat in Kansas
Aspen seventh-grader Jenny Ellis has bought into the idea of confidence. When first meeting her, she brings a quiet, almost shy, demeanor, one that fades away when she finds herself on a soccer field.
“Confidence inspires confidence, doesn’t it?” said Chris Ellis, Jenny’s father. “She is quietly a confident individual. She is not a bragger, which is nice. But she quietly goes about her business and is proving to be pretty successful at it.”
Jenny Ellis, 12, has taken that confidence and turned it into something special. Sunday in El Dorado, Kansas, on the campus of Butler Community College, Ellis will be going for her third straight title at the Mid-America Soccer Shoot, an Elks-sponsored event.
The accuracy contest in Kansas is the end of the road, with each of the athletes competing already having won regional and state championships. Contestants come from Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
“I’ve started to get more confident and I think people are looking for people who are confident. I want people to know my name for being confident,” Jenny Ellis said. “The self-confidence in the last round helped so much. I won by a lot more than I’d been winning when I wasn’t that confident. But when I got to El Dorado, I was, ‘I got this. I can do this.’ And I won.”
Ellis has been to the Mid-America finale each of the past two years, where she won the girls’ U12 division both times. The contest gives each of the contestants a set amount of shots, and in penalty-kick fashion (although, without a goalie), players shoot into a grid in the net, with certain spots worth various amounts of points. The most points at the end, wins.
“It takes a lot of practice. The first time I did it, I didn’t do very well. But that’s OK. I just practiced and practiced and practiced,” Jenny Ellis said. “It’s fun because in soccer you are on a team. Once you get into this, it’s kind of individual and it’s nice to know that I can do something by myself and get the job done.”
Ellis first got involved with the shoot out through the Aspen United Soccer Club. She was asked to take part in a contest after practice one day about four years ago, and little did she know by winning that small contest she would eventually move on to being a regional, state and Mid-America champion.
“Anybody can get lucky on one or two (shots), but over 15 you need consistency. You need that repetition of being able to do the same thing over and over,” said Chris Ellis, who also helps coach his daughter. “This particular little tournament, this annual event, is just part of her development in soccer, or futbol, as I would call it. This is just one component of it. Who knows? It would be nice to say she could continue her soccer/futbol career as far as she can.”
Chris, who comes from England, has two daughters, and it was Jenny who took on his shared passion for soccer. Jenny will compete in the U14 division this year, a step up from the U12 girls she beat each of the past two seasons. The competition only goes up to the U16 level.
Even though the shoot out competition will only be available to Jenny for another few years, she said it has made a tremendous difference in her skills in the team version of the sport.
“I’m going to try and go to U16 because it’s super fun and I love how the Elks do everything,” Jenny Ellis said. “My accuracy in games when I’m shooting is better. I know where to shoot the ball in the corner so the keeper can’t get it. It’s really improved my game.”
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Trailing to Aspen early in Sunday’s championship, the American Raptors came back to lead 24-15 at halftime and held a two score lead well into the second half before the Gents took over the match. This was the Gents’ 22nd championship at Ruggerfest, a tournament that dates to 1968.