When the West Forsyth girls soccer team took the field last spring, all Talia DellaPeruta could do was watch and cheer on her friends.
But it certainly wasn’t because she couldn’t hang with the action on the field. DellaPeruta, a rising sophomore at West, is one of the best soccer players in her age group in the country, and on Sunday she announced her commitment to play at UNC, perhaps the most storied and successful program in women’s college soccer.
DellaPeruta began her club soccer career at United Futbol Academy, the main program in Forsyth County, but two years ago moved to Marietta-based NASA Tophat, which plays in the top-flight Elite Clubs National League.
Since then, DellaPeruta’s place in the sport has soared. Last year, she was invited to train with the U.S. Women’s National Team’s U-14 squad. She soon earned a call-up to the U-15 squad, where she played in events last year like the CONCACAF U-15 Girls’ Championship.
DellaPeruta has been one of the youngest players on the U-17 Women’s National Team, and that team has taken her to destinations like Italy and China for tournaments.
“It’s very cool to play with and against players of your talent and at your level and speed, and it pushes you every day,” DellaPeruta said of her experience with the national team. “It really shows you how much you need to work and improve so you can stay at their level.”
Of course, that opportunity creates conflicts for DellaPeruta back in Georgia. She missed almost 50 days of school during her freshman year at West due to her commitments with the national team, and part of the reason she didn’t play with the Wolverines was because she needed to spend the time on schoolwork.
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” DellaPeruta said. “I really wanted to play for my school, but the high school season just conflicted with my personal training and schedule.”
That posed no issue in deciding her college future. UNC’s coaches first saw DellaPeruta in ECNL competition and were drawn to her pace, creativity and dogged attacking style. DellaPeruta mainly plays attacking midfielder, but she can slide up to forward and even back to defender if necessary.
“She’s on all the time,” said Ted Colburn, DellaPeruta’s coach with Tophat. “She doesn’t have an off button.”
DellaPeruta was drawn to the competitive environment and quality coaching at UNC, and now when she watches the senior National Team, she roots for the multiple Tar Heel alums populating the roster.
And while her commitment came well earlier than that of the typical high schooler, Colburn remarked on how DellaPeruta’s decision was a deliberate and considered one in the scope of elite girls soccer recruiting, where athletes are often pressured to commit early to secure a roster spot.
DellaPeruta is focused on maintaining her speed and fitness and working on her tactical game to match the quickness and complexity of international soccer. She’ll have more opportunities establish herself within the national team program, and now the pressure of making a college decision is gone.
“(UNC’s coaches) have helped me out so much (since) I committed,” DellaPeruta said. “And I feel like they’ll be able to help me reach my potential even earlier.”