Murray's Furlong has presence on the pitch

Prep soccer • Junior's versatility has been key for Spartans.
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Tara Furlong goes where she is told, plays where she is needed.

Out on the wing, pressuring the goalkeeper? Yes, Coach.

Move to center midfield to initiate the offense? Right away, Coach.

Back to sweeper to secure the defense? Already on it, Coach.

Wherever the Murray High junior is needed on the soccer field, that's where she goes.

"I love wing — that's probably one of my favorite positions," Furlong said. "But I play a little bit everywhere. It's good to play everywhere, to learn all the aspects of the game."

After playing on the wing as a freshman, Furlong is growing more comfortable at the sweeper position. Her goal total doubled in 2011, after she scored three times as a freshman. Several of her goals last year came via free and penalty kicks.

"We've been trying to get her back into the midfield," Murray coach Lisa Willardson said. "But she's kind of been playing all over for us.

"She gets into the attack very well, and on defense she is very smart. She gets the ball cleared when we need it and holds on and possesses the ball as well."

She recently switched club teams, from Murray Max to USA Premier, and spent the spring and summer playing at center-midfield.

Furlong's first goal of the high-school season last week helped the Spartans to a season-opening win against Taylorsville — a significant victory, considering Murray's struggles in 2011.

"I have been setting the goal to score more this year," Furlong said. "In order to help my team out the most, I need to put a couple more in the back of the net than I did last year."

Last season, the Spartans managed just two victories and started winless in their first seven games. To break into the win column right out of the gate brought a huge boost in confidence, according to Furlong.

"Last year was rough," she said. "It was hard to get through. So to open with a win meant a lot to the team. Everyone was smiling after the game and we all felt really good. Even our tie against Desert Hills [last week] shows that we are building and improving from last year. If we can keep that going, we'll have a lot of confidence when region play starts."

Willardson said Furlong and senior Lizzy Brown will be relied upon most this season to score for the Spartans.

Furlong said making the playoffs would be nice, but winning a postseason game is the ultimate goal this season.

The Spartans are 0-7 in the postseason over the past eight years and have scored just two goals in those seven games.

"I don't think Murray ever has gotten past the first round," Furlong said. "Getting to the state playoffs would mean a lot to our team. We haven't really talked about a region title, but to do that and make the state playoffs would be a win-win for us." —

Murray sweeper a force near the net

Junior Tara Furlong's goal in the season opener helped Murray to victory against Taylorsville.

The Spartans won just two games last season and started winless in their first seven matches.

Furlong, a sweeper, is looking to increase her goal scoring this season. She tallied three times as a freshman and six times last year.