By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
Joel Duncan made a difficult decision last summer. He faced another one a few months ago.
Duncan, the former Mt. Vernon soccer player and current St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro Academy player, was most recently trying to choose a college. He whittled his decision to four choices before selecting Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
“I definitely feel comfortable,” Duncan said. “I feel like I’ll be at home at SIU-E.
“Once we toured there I knew I wanted to go there because it was just so welcoming, and I could see myself going there.”
Duncan has been a consistent starter at the forward position over the past several months for the metro academy team. He scored six goals for the squad in the first half of the season. The second portion of the academy schedule starts later this month.
Because of a rule change this year, seniors were prohibited from playing both for their high school and U.S. soccer academies. Duncan, who choose to play at the academy and forego his senior year at Mt. Vernon, said playing there helped hone his skills.
“The level of play over there has definitely helped me reach where I wanted to be before I leave for college, but I still have a lot of work to do for college that’s for sure.”
Duncan added the speed of play at the academy has improved his decision-making abilities.
“My body had to think quicker, had to move quicker, be in places at certain times so that’s helped,” he said.
The move from high school to academy presented Duncan with a challenge. He said the transition to college will be an even bigger jump in talent level and physical play.
“Here you are this little 18-year old boy going against grown men,” Duncan said. “That will be the biggest transition that I will have to get used to.”
Duncan played his initial three seasons for the Rams before leaving for the academy his final season. Duncan’s last year at Mt. Vernon was a record-setting one. He scored 32 goals for the Rams and tallied the quickest goal (25 seconds) in school history. He also had 13 assists that season, which broke another Mt. Vernon record.