The 2016 American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 551 National Games team competed with teams from across the county in July of this year. Teams were comprised of some of the most talented and skilled players within each of the represented AYSO regions.
“This year, our girls faced off against teams from California, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Michigan,” coach Kristen Whitaker said of the U14 team she and assistant coaches Thomas Barnwell and Ryan O’Boyle took to the games. “We spent the better part of a year preparing for these games, beginning practice in October of 2015. Myself, Thomas, Ryan and several other volunteers including Lady Railsplitter soccer players Alyssa Berry and Kathryn Lundy, spent many hours with these girls working on foot skills, agility courses, speed drills, etc. We knew what the competition level would be; teams from places like California have 150 girls try out. That’s very difficult to compete with for small regions such as ours.”
The AYSO National Games are held every two years and focus on age divisions beginning at U10 and going up to U19. Games are by invitation only and usually take place the first week in July. This year, games were held in Palm Springs, Florida.
“We had 14 girls on our team” said Whitaker, “and I couldn’t possibly be any prouder of them. They each showed dedication to the team throughout the year and they played together really well. We got off to a rough start in Florida by drawing a California team right out of the gate. That team went on to win the tournament, but I will say that we held them to a score of 4-0. We were playing teams comprised exclusively of 14-year-olds and we ranged in age from 10-14. In sports, that amounts to a huge physical difference, but we held our own and all of our girls really rose to the occasion.”
In addition, out of 19 teams in their division, the team brought home the medal for outstanding sportsmanship, said Whitaker, beaming with pride. “This was just a tremendous group of girls and parents to work with.”
AYSO is the only local feeder program for area school soccer teams. Many of the members of the Region 551 National Games team also play for their respective middle or high school. AYSO regular season play resumed in October of this year. For more information about AYSO, contact Regional Commissioner Quentin Mason at email@example.com.