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UNC camp has paid off for Row, North

Alesha Row had forgotten that feeling.

But as the ball bound over her head and drove deep into the net, she alone was responsible for the humbling task of retrieval; it all came rushing back.

"I was trying for a shutout season, but oh well," Row joked. "It was good for us to get used to coming back from a goal."

While Row is realistic, the statistics she has posted this season are not.

The aforementioned goal, scored by Fargo South in the regular-season finale, is the only blemish on the record

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of the Fargo North junior goalie. Fifteen games, 42 saves, one goal allowed.

"She's so good, and she's only been playing since eighth grade," said junior Carissa Jahner, who leads the Spartans in scoring with 45 points. "Going to the North Carolina camp helped even more."

Not that Row's status quo wasn't effective -- she helped North to a 16-2-2 record as a sophomore -- but her week at a summer goalkeeper camp at the University of North Carolina, the Duke of women's collegiate soccer, was a turning point.

Working with camp staff such as Jenni Braham, the Tar Heels' starting goalie and a member of the United States National Team, Row was exposed to a level of instruction and excellence not readily available in the Midwest.

The experience made the naturally athletic Row more technically sound.

"They gave us a blue sheet of our player evaluation and I did fairly well on that," said Row, who will return to Chapel Hill this summer and aspires to attend college there. "It's nice because it helps with confidence. It helps me keep my game up.

"I have something to strive for."

Stare at Row's numbers long enough and the results take on layers.

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She has a 0.07 goals against average and North opponents get off only 2.8 shots a contest. Of Row's 14 shutouts, twice the Spartans didn't even surrender a shot on goal.

Though the last line of defense, Row has been anything but a girl on an island.

"It's a combination of the defense and her," said North coach Cordell Sinding, whose team has outscored opponents 54-2. "There are times when she doesn't get a lot of action and then all of a sudden she has to come through."

And in those moments of isolation from the movement of the game, Row does her best to stay involved and reciprocate the assistance proved by her teammates.

"I just stay in the game by focusing on talking to the defense," she said. "I have a good view of what's going on."

It all adds up to an unbeaten record (15-0-1) for North heading into the North Dakota state tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday in Minot.

And despite placing second last season, the success has been something of a surprise.

"We lost nine seniors last year," North junior defender Chelsey Shockman said. "We thought this was going to be the time to figure out what we could do better for next year."

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Row is focused on seizing the present, claiming that elusive state championship.

That mean's she'll do her best to avoid that rare, sinking feeling for another weekend.

"Everything is different when it comes to state," Row said. "We didn't play our game last year, but it helped us. We know there are a lot of good teams that we haven't seen before."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Terry Vandrovec at (701) 241-5548

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