The Grind: Ivey Crain, Pinecrest Academy
Ivey Crain used to get nervous before matches.
A freshman last season, she was joining a Pinecrest girls soccer team that finished 11-9 and reached the Class 1A semifinal the year before.
Pinecrest’s engine was already humming along. Who knew they needed a spark plug?
Thirty-one goals later and Crain doesn’t get nervous as often.
Her 31 goals led the whole county in 2019 and helped the Paladins to the Class 1A Private state championship, where the Paladins lost to Wesleyan. She’s already scored 21 goals this season, which has Pinecrest out to a 5-3 record and in position to contend for an area championship.
“When I was younger, I was like, ‘What other position would I play?’ I love to score,” Crain said. “So, I’ve just always played center forward.”
It’s the same position her sister played growing up, which influenced Crain’s decision to pick up the sport.
It’s also the same position that consistently allows Crain to witness soccer’s ultimate euphoria.
“When I’m over there in front of goal taking a shot, after I score and I turn back around and look at my team,” Crain said, “that’s probably the best feeling.”
The team aspect is one aspect that drew Crain to high school soccer, and Pinecrest in particular.
She’s played with Atlanta Fire United for the past three years, adding a season with the US Soccer Development Academy.
Crain came to Pinecrest three years ago, and one of her first classes was a math class taught by soccer coach Domenic Martelli.
“Her personality on the field is very similar to her personality in the classroom,” Martelli said. “She has the ability to really put herself out there and work very, very hard. She’s conscious of everything – maybe sometimes a little too conscious. Trying to improve her confidence to really appreciate how good she really is.”
Martelli saw Crain’s potential on the field from the beginning.
“You just saw that there was something that she brings to the table that most forwards don’t, and that’s the ability to score,” Martelli said. “She’s college ready already. She’s got the eye test, she gets the point across when she’s getting forward with her aggressiveness (and) she finishes some beautiful goals.”
One highlight came during Pinecrest’s 4-0 win against Athens Academy in the Class 1A Private semifinal, when she channeled the flair of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona.
Crain found the back of the net to give Pinecrest a 2-0 lead at the time, but before she did that, she dribbled the ball into the box, spun to her right, then fired the ball past the goalie.
A classic “Maradona.”
“Not the move alone, but to finish the way she did,” Martelli recalled. “The crowd was phenomenal. They went nuts. They saw a high-quality goal right there.”
It’s that skill mixed with certain intangible traits, Martelli said, that makes Crain a threat to opposing defenses.
“That’s what makes that true No. 9, or that true center forward; that stuff that you can’t coach, that instinct, the desire, the ability to run through walls to get a goal,” Martelli said.
Crain knows she has the talent to play soccer in college. She was a first-team All-County selection last year and was one of three freshmen TopDrawerSoccer named to its All-State team after her freshman campaign.
Still, she’s a long way off from making her decision, and college coaches are not allowed to contact her directly as a sophomore.
Martelli said he’s fielded plenty of interest from Division I coaches.
“I think that when college coaches see that, they’re saying, ‘Well, we can’t go find someone who’s doing that right now, especially as a 10th-grader,’” Martelli said. “So, the things that she might need improvement on, those things can be coached, they can be trained; but what she brings to the table herself, that instinct, that aggressiveness and that ability to score, you can’t coach any of that. And, of course, her athleticism. Her athleticism is phenomenal.”
Pinecrest began area play last week with a resounding 7-0 defeat of Providence Christian before taking a 3-2 loss to Hebron Christian on Tuesday.
If the trend from the past few years continues, though, expect Crain and the Paladins to play well into April this year, too.
“Each year it’s gotten better,” Martelli said. “My first year here, we made it to the Sweet 16. Then we made it to the quarterfinals, then we made it to the semifinals, then we made it to the championship game. I don’t want to say, you know, the way things have trended, we win the championship. This year, and I same thing with the other coaches that I talk to, there’s four or five very good teams in our Single A Private, and any of us could win any given day.”
But wins and losses are admittedly not as important to Crain, who has found her place with Pinecrest’s girls soccer team.
“My team is really like a family to me,” Crain said. “And rather than us winning the state title, I’d rather just be proud to call them my family, and that’s what I am.”