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Day, for the Defense: Hartford Grad Wins Gold for U.S.

  • Devon Day of Hartland, a graduate of Hartford High School returned Wednesday from Germany where she played on the United States Under 21 soccer team to win the United World Games women's soccer championship. Thursday, June 27, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Devon Day of Hartland, a graduate of Hartford High School returned Wednesday from Germany where she played on the United States Under 21 soccer team to win the United World Games women's soccer championship. Thursday, June 27, 2013.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Devon Day of Hartland, a graduate of Hartford High School returned from Germany Wednesday where she played on the United States Under 21 soccer team to win the United World Games women's soccer championship. Thursday, June 27, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Devon Day of Hartland, a graduate of Hartford High School returned from Germany Wednesday where she played on the United States Under 21 soccer team to win the United World Games women's soccer championship. Thursday, June 27, 2013.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Devon Day of Hartland, a graduate of Hartford High School returned Wednesday from Germany where she played on the United States Under 21 soccer team to win the United World Games women's soccer championship. Thursday, June 27, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com
  • Devon Day of Hartland, a graduate of Hartford High School returned from Germany Wednesday where she played on the United States Under 21 soccer team to win the United World Games women's soccer championship. Thursday, June 27, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

White River Junction — An outside midfielder at Hartford High School, Devon Day changed her global position before switching her position on the field — and it paid off immensely for her Team USA “Stripes” team at the United World Games.

Day recently returned from Klagenfurt, Austria, where she played left defensive back on an undefeated Stripes team that championed the UWG’s under-21 women’s soccer tournament.

Day — who scored 37 goals and tallied 51 points during a four-year varsity career with the Hurricanes — tallied three assists while flanking a dominant backfield for the Stripes, which went 6-0 in the tourney while outscoring opponents 9-1. Day was named player of the game during the Stripes’ 1-0 win over host Austria on day 2 of the tournament on June 21. She assisted on the Stripes goal during a corner kick, a duty she handled throughout the tournament.

“I primarily played midfield with Hartford, but (the Stripes) only had three defenders, so there was a need for one more and I said I’d give it a try,” Day, of Hartland, said during an interview at Hartford High last week. “There were a lot of talented players on the team. We clicked pretty (easily), and it wasn’t that hard to do something different.”

Day received an email over the spring from American International Sports Tours, a Kansas City, Mo.-based organization that organizes U.S. teams for participation in international tournaments. Day’s voyage overseas also included team day trips to Venice, Italy, and Berlin after the tourney ended.

Day did some of her own fundraising for the trip, which cost about $3,000, food and lodging included. She admitted dipping into a bit of her college fund for the journey, but considered it well worth it. She won an elusive championship — the Hurricanes lost in the Vermont Division II state tile game when she was a junior and in the semis last fall — and the traveling alone was worth the financial commitment.

“It was so cool, doing all of these things that you normally only see in movies,” said Day, who will play for NCAA Division III Lasell College, outside of Boston, this fall. “To be on a gondola in Venice and see all of the old buildings and everything was pretty amazing.”

The soccer tournament was really fun, too — especially for the Stripes, one of two U.S. teams on hand. The other, naturally dubbed the Stars, appeared more organized and energetic during a practice next to their Stripes counterparts prior to competition, Day said.

Yet the Stripes got the better of the Stars on the pitch, beginning their unbeaten run with a 3-1 win in the tournament opener June 20. The Stars’ goal came during the final two minutes of the match, the lone score given up by the Stripes throughout the tournament.

“(The Stars) looked so good compared to us during the practice, it was kind of (intimidating),” Day recalled. “Once we beat them, it gave us a lot of confidence.”

With two games slated for June 21, the Stripes tallied 1-0 wins over both Switzerland and Austria, the latter on a second-half goal set up by Day’s corner service.

“She really placed beautiful crosses into the penalty area during corner kicks,” said Stripes coach Ed Heberling, who mentors the women’s soccer team at University of South Carolina-Beaufort, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I program. “The coaching staff selected her as player of the game for the first Austria game, because it was just such a great pass.”

The Stripes secured a spot in the championship game with another pair of shutout wins June 22, blanking Lithuania 2-0 and Germany 1-0 to win their pool.

They met host Austria once again in the championship game the next day, and this time the hosts were ready.

“A lot of the European (teams) were much more geared toward tactical play and playing for possession, whereas the American teams were physical and more used to contact going for the ball,” Day noted. “Austria was the one team we played (other than the Stars) that didn’t shy away from being physical.”

Austria controlled possession and pressured Day’s back line in the first half, but couldn’t get past outstanding Stripes goalie Courtney Lofland, of Indianapolis. The Stripes finally scored midway through the second half and added an insurance goal late in the game to secure the United World Games U-21 crown.

The team’s only New England representative, Day said she thought the invitation must have been a scam before following up on it. “It’s so funny that they found me,” she said. “Most of the girls were from places like California and Texas, where there are more recruiters. I’m registered with the (National Collegiate Scouting Association), which I’m guessing is how they found me.”

Heberling wishes his USC-Beaufort coaching staff had gotten a hold of Day before Lasell’s did.

“Watching her play, it was like, ‘Wow, too bad we couldn’t have seen her earlier,’ ” Heberling said. “She’s the kind of player most college coaches would love to have.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.