Women's Soccer News: Spotlight on Gulf Coast's Jamaican Attackers, Shakira Duncan and Tina Murray
Shakira Duncan and Tina Murray grew up playing with and against each other in Jamaica. Both found their way to America to play college soccer, and they found each other -- by plan, sort of -- on the University of West Florida's powerhouse women's team.
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Now they're in the conversation for best attacking tandem in the Women's Premier Soccer League, and they're looking to make their case at this weekend's championship final four in Pensacola, Fla.
Duncan and Murray are the go-to stars for the Gulf Coast Texans, who take a 9-0-0 record and home-field advantage into the WPSL's final weekend, with a semifinal with Salt Lake United (8-0-2) set for Saturday evening and, they hope, a title-game appearance Sunday afternoon.
If the Texans are to succeed, they'll require something special from the pair, which seems to provide special somethings every time they're on the field.
“Shakira plays out wide for us,” Gulf Coast coach David Kemp said. “She has a free role, with pick up the ball in wide areas, gets around the corner on defense and gets into the box. Very fast, big feet, extremely technical. She can do stuff that's out of the ordinary.
“Tina is a little different style of player. You feed Tina the ball, she holds it up, spreads it around. She's been very consistent, has big goals and big assists when games are tight. She's been in a zone all season long.”
They've combined for 17 goals (nine for Duncan, eight for Murray) and 12 assists (eight of them Murray's), but it's the flair with which they create that impresses so. They have a connection that's endured, and it extends off the field, too. They're roommates.
“When we were in Jamaica, we went to primary school together,” said Duncan, a coach in the Gulf Coast Texans youth club. “We grew up together, went to the national team together. She went to Mississippi and we kept in touch, and when I came here, I told her she has to come here.”
Said Murray: “I didn't want to go nowhere I didn't know anybody.
“We've been together ever since,” added Duncan.
Duncan, who has nine goals and four assists for the Texans, is a speedy finisher who has scored in bunches everywhere she's been: She's a three-time All-American who scored 110 goals in four college seasons, the first at Oral Roberts, then at junior college powerhouse Darton College, and as a junior and senior at West Florida.
“Shakira plays out wide for us,” Gulf Coast coach David Kemp said. “She has a free role, with pick up the ball in wide areas, gets around the corner on defense and gets into the box. Very fast, big feet, extremely technical.
“She can do stuff that's out of the ordinary.”
Duncan says the ability to put the ball in the net has “always been there, but my game has matured so much, it just comes out more naturally. Being in America, playing against these kind of girls -- girls constantly running, they never give up. You beat them once, then you turn around and they're there again. You have to beat them three or four times. My game has matured a lot.”
Murray, the WPSL Southeast Conference Player of the Year with eight goals and eight assists, is the fulcrum around which the Texans' attack revolves. She spent two years at Meridian (Miss.) Community College before joining Duncan at West Florida, totaling 50 goals and 37 assists in four years.
“Tina is a little different style of player,” Kemp said. “You feed Tina the ball, she holds it up, spreads it around. She's been very consistent, has big goals and big assists when games are tight. She's been in a zone all season long.”
Murray says she's “more like a creative player, a playmaker. I make the passes. Shakira is my target -- I'm always looking for her. ... All the time I know where she's going. Even though she's unpredictable, we've been playing together so long.”
Says Duncan: “She knows me. And I know her. If she has the ball, she knows I'm going to make a run, and she knows exactly where to play.”
That connection gives the Gulf Coast Texans an advantage this weekend that could lead to profit. No matter what happens, they plan to enjoy it.
“We have a lot of fun playing together,” Duncan said. “When you see us playing together, you see us smiling all the time.”
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