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The Under-17 Girls should be an interesting group to follow in 2012-2013 as the field seems wide open despite several teams boasting past success. Defending National and Region I Champion BRYC 95 Elite (VA) is sure to be the team to beat in the Red Division, but defending division champ Sporting BV Supersport (MO), formerly KCFC/Futura Academy, and third place finisher Grand Rapids Crew Jrs Gold (MI) will also be in the hunt. Defending divisional champ Legends FC (CA-S), Region II Champion Cleveland United White (OH-N) Region I finalist Match Fit Chelsea Beat (NJ) and Region III finalist OFC 96 (OK) will battle in the Blue Division.
"The US Youth Soccer National League has been tremendous," said Match Fit Chelsea Girls Director of Coaching Dom Bucci. "Two years ago we qualified into the National Championships through the National League, so that was a great experience the first year we were in it. We did well and had that positive experience right away. Last year we didn’t lose a match, but unfortunately we tied a couple games in there and didn’t get that chance. But we haven’t lost a game in two years in the National League. With that level of very high competition, I think that’s a pretty good result.
"In terms of player development, for us, it’s always about creating the best training and playing environment. The National League has provided us with the best possible level of competition. The other teams and clubs that we’re playing in the National League are as good as it gets, so it’s helped our players improve. The teams have to do well in order to get into the league and they have to do well through their state and regional competitions to get that opportunity. It’s earned; you’re not just given a place each year."
BRYC 95 Elite turned heads last summer with their technical style of play, but this is a team that has developed over the years. After finishing 7th in the division in 10-11, BRYC finished last in their division in 11-12 despite tying five of their seven games. Don’t let those records fool you though, BRYC is loaded with talent and skill. After winning their first State Championship last year, BRYC took down Match Fit in the Region I final and then knocked off National League champ Legends FC at Nationals on their way to the title. Wake Forest commit Kahla Seymour and Adrienne Maday topped all scorers in South Carolina with three each, and Maday earned Best XI honors along with U.S. National Pool member Carlyn Baldwin (Tennessee), Annaugh Madsen, Kayleigh Stallings and Golden Glove winner and Region I ODP player Tina Cardamone.
Returning champ Legends FC will be defending their title in the Blue Division and will be eager to get back to Nationals after a disappointing campaign last summer, going 0-2-1 versus three National League foes. Amanda Ball was named to the Best XI team at the National Championships and finished third in scoring last season with six goals.
Legends biggest threat to the Blue title should come from Match Fit Chelsea Beat, who qualified for the 2011 National Championships through the 10-11 season and finished in second place last year. Match Fit held the advantage in the division with a game to play last season, but a 1-1 tie, their fourth of the season, with Cleveland United on the final day handed Legends the title. Maryland commit Alexis DellaPietro led the team in scoring last season and at the Region I Championships, scoring four goals in each. Kansas commit Ashley Pankey added two goals in the National League and tied with teammate Brianna Robinson for the lead at Regionals with five.
"Last year we didn’t qualify for the National Championships through the National League and then we lost in the Regional Finals to another National League team. So our expectations are to continue to try to compete and play at the highest level, to finish one of the top two, and get back out to National Championships," said Bucci.
"Getting back to Nationals for the players and for the club, it would be a great experience. It’s a great opportunity for our younger teams to see our older kids do well. For our players, I think it motivates them. They had a taste for it a couple of years ago and they want to get back out there. So I think it would mean a lot to all the players and to the coaches and staff."
Also bearing down on Legends is Region II Champion Cleveland United White. Cleveland struggled in league play last year with a 1-3-3 record, losing 1-0 to Legends but drawing 1-1 with Match Fit to knock them out of the top spot. They grabbed a bit of revenge at Nationals beating Legends 3-0, but could not advance to the final. Pittsburgh commit and Region II ODP player Seyla Perez was named to the Best XI team with two goals at the National Championships and fellow Region II ODP teammate Kelly Novak (Kentucky) headed the attack at Regionals with three goals, backed by Bowling Green commit Alexis Manoa’s two.
"I think all the teams are quality," said Bucci. "I don’t even want to say one is the favorite. Every team has earned the right to be here and I think all the teams are challenging to get through, so we’ll take it each game at a time."
More Players to Watch:
Kaleigh Riehl (BRYC Elite): U.S. National Pool member, 3 goals at Region I Championships
Elysse Branton (BRYC Elite): Region I ODP player
Shea Newman (BRYC Elite): Virginia commit
Nicolette Griesinger (Cleveland United): Region II ODP player and Dayton commit
Brittany Cooper (PDA Ginga): 3 goals at Region I Championships
Monreau DeVos (GR Crew Jrs): Region II ODP player and Wake Forest commit
Mikala Modiri (Sporting BV): 4 goals at Region II Championships
Kaylyn Smith (Pride Predators): Region IV ODP player and Virginia Tech commit
Erin Geiger (Pride Predators): Texas commit
Rachel Thun (OFC): Led the Region III Championships with 6 goals and Tulsa commit
Annah Lindberg (PWSI Courage): Region I ODP player and North Carolina State commit
Maggie Chapman (PWSI Courage): Penn State commit
Willough Davis (NASA): 3 goals last season and Furman commit