Grand-Lienard's travels end at TWU

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 8, 2007 - Gayle Grand-Lienard traveled across the southern United States this past year showcasing her soccer talents. It landed her within a short drive of Sulphur Springs.

Grand-Lienard, a four-year starter for the Lady Cats soccer team, signed a scholarship offer on Wednesday, National Signing Day, to play soccer for Texas Woman's University in Denton.

Grand-Lienard, who was the district's Most Valuable Player as a sophomore, is on pace this season to break the SSHS single-season scoring record. She has 16 goals in the team's first 11 games.

But, it was the skill she showed over the last couple of years playing club soccer for one of the elite teams in North Texas that really drew the attention of college scouts. She played this last year in tournaments in four states.

"It was about two years ago, and my parents and I talked about that if I wanted to play in college I needed to get on a club team to pursue playing soccer," she explained. "It really opened a lot of doors because we went to a lot of showcase tournaments where big schools and colleges were there."

Her father, Rob Grand-Lienard, said SSHS boys coach Andy Holt, who was a college soccer player himself, steered Gayle in that direction after practicing with her on one-on-one skills.

What transpired took a lot of time and travel.

"It's definitely been worth it," Grand-Lienard said. "I've enjoyed every minute of it. Playing soccer is my passion - it's what I love."

She settled on Texas Woman's University after visiting the campus and coach Fleur Benatar. She liked the proximity to home, also. TWU plays in the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference, and is building a new soccer field.

Grand-Lienard played right outside midfielder on her club team and is forward for the Lady Cats, so she can play either position for the Pioneers.

SSHS head coach Martin Bryant, who has seen Grand-Lienard register three hat tricks this season, was also on hand for the signing.

"It's special to have the opportunity to play soccer at a higher level. In girls soccer, there aren't that many that get to do that," he said. "Soccer is a sport that you just have to spend time doing it because you're using your feet to do things you don't normally do. You've just got to practice, practice, practice until you get good at it.

"It's been countless hours, I'm sure Gayle has put in to get to the point that she's at."

In addition to her MVP award as a sophomore, Grand-Lienard was the district Newcomer of the Year as a freshman and was First Team All-District forward as a junior. She was also voted co-captain of this year's team by her teammates.

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