By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 18, 2023
FAYETTEVILLE—As the assistant soccer coach helped a player with a twisted ankle off the field, he told Eva Launay-Fallasse to take his position.
Wearing a neon blue practice jersey, Launay-Fallasse took up the sideline position leading the team in the one-on-one ball-handling drills and then shooting at the goal while shouting words of encouragement to teammates.
The senior starter on the St. Mary’s Academy squad is a team leader. Coaches praise her for her on-field composure, competitive drive and attention to teammates.
The Bobcat team that struggled last spring moved into a new sports division, which the coach hopes will fuel new competitive spirit and help turn the team’s record around.
Caring for teammates
It was at the age of 5 that Eva Launay-Fallasse stepped onto a soccer field for the first time. As a child, she also played tennis and gymnastics, but soccer stuck with her, and she has never stopped playing it.
She loves sports because she cares about her teammates.
“I love the team aspect of it. I like relying on other people, but also doing my part to win a game. I just like the celebrations,” she said.
As a determined athlete, Launay-Fallasse, 17, said she drives herself to improve. “I put a lot of pressure on myself not to let my team down,” she said.
During her four years on the cross-country team, she’s been the school’s strongest girl competitor. Cross-country coach Kiesha Porter said Launay-Fallasse is a leader by doing for others, not putting herself first. “She stepped into these leadership roles so easily.”
Porter watched Launay-Fallasse take a first-year runner under her wing as the workouts ramped up. The demands of the sport almost overwhelmed the girl who appeared to be ready to quit, but because of Launay-Fallasse’s willingness to serve as a mentor, the other girl stuck it out through the fall season.
The coach said she would always remember how Launay-Fallasse goes out of her way to thank coaches at the end of every practice, no matter how brutal the sessions.
“She’s blessed the school with her athletic ability and her leadership and her desire to bring her classmates to the Lord,” said Porter.
Campus leader with student ministries
The youngest daughter of Cynthia Launay-Fallasse and Franck Launay-Fallasse, the school’s assistant principal and leader of the theology department, she credits her competitive drive to her mom. She and her dad share a love for the French national soccer team. They were eager to see every broadcast from Qatar and watched the team do well in the 2022 World Cup. Their “Les Bleus” came up short in the finals to Argentina.
Recently named the class of 2023 valedictorian, Launay-Fallasse’s heart is to attend Georgia Tech University, to major in biochemistry. She is curious about playing on its women’s soccer team, which is a club sport. Away from sports, she relishes being with friends; they recently went bowling. Her music taste is Taylor Swift.
In addition to her efforts on the field, Launay-Fallasse has been a campus leader with the Respect Life ministry and with the student-led FLAME retreat team.
After an interruption due to COVID-19, the school brought back its tradition of a weekend retreat. About half the high school students spent days at Camp Hidden Lake. With the guidance of Launay-Fallasse and other student leaders, the teens prayed and led group discussions about living their faith as young adults.
New division competitors, new challenges
Daniel Arenas coaches the team with a roster of 18 players. In his second year, the team faces new challenges in the Georgia Independent Athletic Association.
“She’s very much a leader in every aspect of the word,” said Arenas about the senior. The coach said Launay-Fallasse is the first one to step on the field, the first to encourage teammates in their mistakes, the first to lift anyone up.
“She’s very much leading by doing. She definitely contributes by being an example for everyone,” he said.
Arenas sees potential in the team. With a focus on ball-handling drills, he wants them to get more comfortable taking shots at the goal. Also, the team plays on a new turf field this season. The team has had more game-like practices this pre-season when in the past a rain-soaked field forced the team into a gym to make the best of the situation.
Between the goal posts, Launay-Fallasse controls the center of the field as an attacking middle with her job to break up any offensive sets then feed the ball to her strikers or put the ball in the net herself. According to a high school sports website, she was the second-highest scorer last spring, with credit for four goals and two assists.
Last year, the team ended with a losing record. Launay-Fallasse said she understands the team isn’t a powerhouse, and as a co-captain this year she is not only looking at the win-loss record. She hopes to help her team reimagine success, focusing on improvement on the field. In their Feb. 13 opener, St. Mary’s Academy tied against United Homeschool with a score of 1-1. Freshman Emily Jimenez scored the Bobcats’ goal.
Launay-Fallasse said if the team puts in the work and sees how they have improved, that will be a worthwhile goal. Improvements and having fun with her teammates are key, she said.
For Launay-Fallasse, competing in sports helps her feels alive.
“Getting out there on the field, getting out on there on the course, that is what re-energizes my brain,” she said.