By Kim West
Spending 17 days in Germany is a dream come true for Anyston Belt, but she isn’t in Europe just for sightseeing.
Belt, a rising junior at West Limestone High School, departed July 16 on her first-ever airline flight to stay with a host family in Lanengsandelbach, Germany, as part of the German-American soccer exchange program.
The 16-year-old striker was selected after a member of the coaching staff saw her play in tournaments with her club soccer team, the Valley Futbol Club. The VFC recently merged with Huntsville’s team to become the Huntsville Futbol Club.
“I played club soccer with Valley, and the coach had been looking around at club tournaments. He hand-picked some players to go to Germany, and I was fortunate to be picked,” said Belt on Monday. “You go and stay with a family and tour the country, but mainly you play in soccer tournaments. I like to experience new things on my own. It’s my first time flying and going out of the country, but I believe you should go big or go home.”
Belt, who has ancestors born in Germany, said she has taken two courses in French but isn’t familiar with the German language.
“I’m not fluent in German at all so I probably should have taken that last year. But I didn’t know about going on the trip until January,” she said. “Being out of country just seems awesome to me ... We might go see some castles, and I’m not sure if we’ll go to Paris but I would love to go there.”
Belt, whose favorite players are U.S. national team forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, helped the No. 7 Wildcats advance to the second round of the Class 1A-4A playoffs for the first time in program history in April.
She led the team in regular-season scoring with 16 goals, while rising senior Jessica Hutchinson scored a hat trick in the playoffs to finish with a team-leading 18 goals. Belt gutted out the final seven weeks of the season after fracturing her ankle during a March 9 collision in a match against Athens Bible School.
“I’m hoping I can improve my one-(versus)-one skills. I feel I’m confident enough but I went to a college recruitment camp at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the coach emailed me and said I needed to work on my confidence on the ball. When I see that I need to go to the goal, I need to go,” she said. “I might take over the center-mid(fielder) position next season, and that’s the person you want to give the ball to so they can give-and-go. I hope I can do that for my team at West and hopefully still take on shots.”
Belt, who is easy to spot on the field with her wavy, dark-blond hair and bulky black knee braces, also has tendonitis, wayward traction and a malfunctioning IT band in her knees.
“My ankle is doing a lot better, and it’s made a lot of progress from the playoffs because I can actually run on it without cringing at the thought,” she said. “It was a hairline fracture you could barely see (on the X-ray), and the doctor said it probably would have felt better if I had actually broken it. I just thought it was a sprain at first because I had been playing on sprains forever.
“I don’t worry about injuries because you just live and learn. I like to do what I do, and soccer is my passion. Whenever I’m playing, I don’t think about it.”