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Soccer: West's Talia DellaPeruta reflects on World Cup experience
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West Forsyth junior Talia DellaPeruta takes a touch during training with the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team. Photo courtesy Talia DellaPeruta.

Talia DellaPeruta has been playing soccer at the highest possible levels for a while now, but for the West Forsyth junior, this was still something totally different.

“Whatever it is at travel soccer and whatever league you’re in, it’s just heightened times 10 once you get there,” DellaPeruta said. “It’s a real eye-opener, and it’s very cool to see.”

It’s only been a bit over two weeks since DellaPeruta got back to the U.S. and returned to school at West, and her main focus now is not on soccer, but on catching up on all the things her high school classmates were doing while she was gone.

That work has included fielding a wealth of excited, awestruck questions: DellaPeruta was gone because she was playing for the United States U-17 Women’s National Team in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay. DellaPeruta, a North Carolina commit who has never played scholastic soccer in high school, was one of just 21 players to make the squad, and one of just two from Georgia.

“I try not to expect anything with making rosters,” DellaPeruta said. “I try to just work my hardest and see (how) the coaches want to make the roster, and when they told me, it was the best feeling in the world.”

DellaPeruta, who plays club soccer for TopHat, had been part of a group of 40 to 50 players that, over the past two years, were intermittently brought in by U.S. Soccer to compete, learn the team’s style and prepare for the World Cup, which comes around every two years at the youth level. In October, at a camp in Florida, DellaPeruta learned that she would be part of this year’s squad for the U-17 World Cup, which took place from Nov. 13-Dec. 1 in Uruguay.

While DellaPeruta has mainly played in attacking roles in the past, with her speed and skill on the ball being some of her primary attributes, this event saw shift to defender. It wasn’t a solely defensive role, though: She played at the outside back spot in a hybrid role, where she was still counted on the push balls forwards and play crosses to teammates.

“When I get put in the back, my intentions are still the same,” DellaPeruta said. “That’s what they liked most about me – they wanted more attack out of the back.”

The event was flawless in many ways for DellaPeruta: Great food, great hotels, great organization, and a dedicated bus that took the team to games and training. The only unsavory part of the whole experience was the team’s results: The U.S. failed to exit the group stage, winning its first game 3-0 over Cameroon but then falling 3-0 to North Korea and 4-0 to Germany.

That’s been something of a sensitive topic for DellaPeruta when she talks about how the event went, but not enough to give her a negative view of the experience. And it’ll certainly be helpful in the next stage of her soccer career, when she heads to college and aims for a spot on the U-18 or U-20 national teams.

“I know our team wished we could have done a little better,” DellaPeruta said. “But it was a really great learning experience for us, and I think in the long run, that will help us out for our careers down the road.”