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Two teams that standout in the Under-16 Girls are Legends FC (CA-S) and Kings Hammer Academy (OH-S). Both claimed National League titles in 2011-2012 and met in the National Championship game, with Legends coming out 1-0 victors. Both are also back this season and once again on opposite sides of the age group.
However, the U-16 Girls might have the toughest bracket on paper, with National League returners Match Fit Chelsea Colchesters (NJ), Eclipse Elite USYSA 96-97 (IL), PSC Baltimore (MD) and VSA Heat 96 Blue (VA), all top-3 in the tables last season, back for another shot. Region IV newcomers Carlsbad Elite (CA-S), DMCV Sharks (CA-S) and Pride Predators 97 (CO) are also looking to make an immediate impact on the standings.
"For us, we wanted to be a part of the US Youth Soccer National League to compete, to play with and play against some of the best teams in the country. I think one of the appeals of National League is that we want to test ourselves and playing in a prestigious league like the National League will certainly give us that opportunity," said Sian Hudson, Girls Director of Coaching for Pride Soccer Club.
"The college coach exposure that the National League draws is just phenomenal. We were actually at the Las Vegas Showcase last year and there were National League games going on alongside our fields. There was an overwhelming number of college coaches there watching. The kids are excited to play against some of the best teams and in front of a large coach audience."
"I think every team in the National League is going to pose a different challenge. Each region of the country plays a slightly different style of soccer. I think it’s great for the girls to be able to go out and learn how to adapt to different styles of soccer and different challenges. It’s certainly exciting for the kids to have different challenges like that. Like I said, I think the beauty of the National League is that every team you face is a top notch team and each team is going to provide a different challenge. We’re excited to continue our rivalry with some of the top Region IV teams, but also excited to test ourselves against some of the other teams we’ve never faced before."
After winning the Red Division last season, Legends didn’t let up a goal at the National Championships, taking two 1-0 victories and a 0-0 draw with Kings Hammer before defeating Kings 1-0 in the final. Region IV ODP player Mikayla Flores led the Legends attack through the National League season with five goals, just one behind the leader. Region IV ODP and U.S. National Team pool member Peyton Perea scored the game winner in the National final and was named to the Best XI team, along with Kayra Dollas and Michelle Alozie. Region IV ODP and U.S. National Team pool member Ally Prisock anchors the defense that gave away just three goals through 11 games in the National League and National Championships.
Like Legends, Kings Hammer Academy relies on a stout defense which gave up just one goal during last season, tying the league record. Lauren Nemeroff headlines the attack with a league-best six goals in 11-12, but Bailey Feist and Kelly Polacek notched two goals each at the National Championships. Nemeroff and Feist were both named Best XI players at Nationals along with Payton Atkins, and Region II ODP and U.S. National Team pool member Katie Murray leads the way in midfield.
Match Fit Chelsea Colchesters should be at the top of the pack alongside Legends in the Red Division. Match Fit’s only blemish last season was at the hands of Kings Hammer in Las Vegas, a 5-0 result in which Kings could do no wrong. A tough group at the Region I Championships that featured National League foe PSC Baltimore left Match Fit out of the National Championships. Match Fit has several standouts and gets contributions from all over the field. Samantha DePinho and Hana Kerner led the team with three goals each in the 11-12 season and scored six goals in three games at the Regional Championships despite not advancing. Julia Ashley, Alana Cook, Gabrielle Martone and Kayla Jennings are all Region I ODP players and Ashley, Cook and Jennings have all been invited into U.S. National Team camps.
PSC Baltimore was right in the thick of things last season, finishing third in the Red Division and then falling in the Region I Championship game. U.S. National Team pool member Bridgette Andrzejewski tied for second in National League season scoring with five goals and tied for the lead at the Region I Championships with seven.
League newcomer Pride SC placed three teams in the league their first year. Pride Predators 97 were a game away from the National Championships last summer when they fell 1-0 in the Region IV Championship game. Pride toppled fellow National League competitor DMCV Sharks in group play and knocked off Legends in the quarterfinals.
"We had a fantastic run in Regionals last year but lost in the final. It was disappointing to go all that way and miss out; to struggle with the final hurdle. It’s going to be a great measuring stick to see how far we’ve come. They’re extremely focused and fired up to get that berth to nationals."
"I think, for me, we’re obviously looking to come in and not just be a part of it. We’re looking to be one of the better teams in each age group. Just in general, I think when you’re playing and have the opportunity to qualify for the National Championships, there’s an element of excitement. It’s very prestigious for the girls. They’re very driven to win that berth, for sure."
More Players to Watch:
Ally Watt (Pride Predators): Region IV ODP player
Melissa Lowder (DMCV Sharks): Region IV ODP and U.S. National Pool member
Hailey Harbison (DMCV Sharks): Region IV ODP and U.S. National Pool member
Meagan Gibson (DMCV Sharks): Region IV ODP player
Caroline Kerns (PWSI Courage): Region I ODP and U.S. National Pool member
Megan Enos (PWSI Courage): Region I ODP player