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GIRLS' SOCCER: Cross represents U.S.A. in overseas soccer tournament

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Third Banshee in 2 years to compete internationally

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Bethlehem’s two-time defending region champion girls’ soccer team has developed an international connection, with junior-to-be Jordan Cross the latest on the roster to head across the pond to advance her game.

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Cross, an ace defender for the Banshees, joined up with a team organized by her former coach in Kentucky’s Olympic Development Program for an overseas trip to Spain, where Cross and her Kentucky teammates served as representatives of the United States in an international tournament in the Mediterranean coastal resort city of Benidorm.

“One of the best parts for me was the opening ceremony on the beach,” Cross said. “We probably took 1,000 pictures that night.”

There were 22 countries represented by more than 4,000 players at the event. Cross said it was rewarding to expand her cultural horizon in that way, making new friends along the way from Spain, Northern Ireland and New Jersey.

“You get to meet a lot of people from different countries,” she said, noting that it was interesting that wherever she and her teammates played, it drew a lot of observers curious to see what the American team looked like on the field. “It was definitely a lot of fun.”

Cross said it was challenging to work through cultural and language barriers on the way to making new friends, but they’re memories she’ll carry for a lifetime.

“It’s definitely worth it,” she said of the trip. “You’re going out of the country, seeing different things.”

Styles of play vary from what Cross is used to here in the States, where she keeps up a busy summertime schedule playing in tournaments around the eastern U.S. with her Kentucky Fire Juniors club team. Cross’ team faced off against teams from Spain and Iceland, and won its first match in the tournament in Benidorm, and had two draws. The squad advanced to the semifinals of their division, where they fell in a penalty kick shootout.

“The teams over there are good,” she said.

Cross and her squad also participated in some training sessions in Valencia while in Spain, and she said her game benefits greatly from exposure to different coaching and playing styles in overseas play and club ball.

“It’s definitely helped me become a better player, playing good competition,” Cross said.

The last two summers, her Bethlehem teammates — fellow junior-to-be Madie Sparks and senior-to-be Haley Nelson — participated in Kentucky’s Olympic Development Program during its annual trip to The Netherlands for international competition.

Cross said she and Sparks and Nelson have tried to pass on to their Bethlehem teammates what they’ve learned during their excursions in an effort to maintain their hold on the 5th Region soccer scene. The Banshees are clear favorites for a three-peat.

“We get along really well, and we’re confident,” she said. “It should show during the season.”

Fans can get their first look at Bethlehem on Monday, Aug. 7, when the squad hosts Bullitt East for a scrimmage.