Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Youth: Flames eager for Region III Premier League

BRANDON - In a competition like the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Premier League, it’s hard enough to compete when you have a full complement of players.

When you’re short-handed, it makes things a bit more difficult. But that’s the situation the Brandon Flames girls’ under-14 side found itself in over the spring, as it competed in the tournament for the first time.

Now, as an under-15 team, the squad has reinforcements as it begins the new season this Saturday against the Cape Fear Wave from North Carolina. After finishing seventh due to tiebreakers, four different teams ended on 17 points, the Flames are looking to make a strong run this time around.

“I think the team expects to do well again,” Aubrey Riggins said. “We played most of the season with nine or 10 players, and we’ve picked up a lot of new really good players, and we hope to have a really good season.”

Flames coach Randy Belli has been impressed by the dedication the side has shown over the summer, adding he thought getting a feel for what premier league competition held gave them added motivation.

“We’ve had a good summer, the girls have been working hard and have come in fit,” Belli said. “They’re serious players, they come in on their own and they know what it takes to play. Having a taste of the region premier league last year, they know what it takes to be competitive in that league, sitting around for the summer is not an option for them.”

The Flames qualified for the competition by reached the State Cup final, where it lost 1-0 to Ponte Vedra. That loss left the squad hungry to achieve more this season.

“It was very disappointing,” Kalynne Heyer said, “but it kept our heads up for this year to come out stronger and not worry about what happened previously. Just let that be part of the past.”

While the side has the opportunity to qualify for next year’s Southern Regional tournament with a top-two finish in the league, Belli said he is more concerned with making sure the side continues to develop and be challenged.

“I think for the girls, it’s exciting,” Belli said. “For me, I think what we draw from it is the competition is what helps the kids develop, and in the end all I care about is how good they are when they are 17, 18 and can go to college. We’ve just happened to win a lot of games now, but we never emphasize winning, it’s all about developing so they’re the best player at 17, 18.”

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