During a break in a training session for the upcoming Region I youth soccer championships, assistant coach Brian Retersdorf posed a question to the two Capital United girls’ teams on the field.
“Who has the longest drive to get here?” Retersdorf asked the U12 and U13 teams.
The question was more for effect.
The two teams, which will begin round-robin play in the regional event Friday in Barboursville, W.Va., are road-tested.
“All spring, we’ve been up and down the Thruway for our league games,” said Retersdorf, who serves as Liz Villamil’s assistant coach for both teams. “We’ve gone out of state for tournaments.
“Sure, this will be a longer trip, but the girls have handled everything so well this season.”
“These girls come from all over the area. Some of their parents drive over an hour to get them to practice two or three times a week,” Villamil said. “It just shows how dedicated the kids and their parents are, to make that commitment.”
The U12 team, the Blue Flash, will compete in the short field 8v8 division, after beating Niskayuna in the State Cup final on May 30.
The U13 Blue Force dropped a 2-0 decision to Sachem in its state final, but advanced when Sachem couldn’t attend the regionals.
“The team that won the championship against the U13s was unable to attend regionals, so as a finalist, we were given the opportunity,” explained Villamil, a standout at Shenendehowa who went on to play for Penn State.
“We’re just excited about having two teams qualifying for the regional tournament. When you think of all the clubs and teams in the state, and we have two still playing, it says a lot about the girls.”
Carolyn Fitzpatrick, whose trek from St. Johnsville qualified for the answer to Retersdorf’s question, is looking forward to the tournament.
“We go to Long Island to play during the year,” said the striker on the U13 team. “We go all over, just this one is a little longer.”
Grace Mathes, a midfielder on the U12s, is from Coxsackie.
“This is the first travel team I’ve played on, so I’m happy that we get to go to regionals,” she said.
The younger team’s season will end at the regional level. Teams are not permitted to play for national championships prior to reaching the U13 division.
That hasn’t put a damper on the Blue Flash players.
“I like the smaller teams because it feels like there’s more room,” Mathes said.
Teammate Megan Romansky, a midfielder who lives in the Voorheesville school district, said that her team’s approach to the game is the same on the smaller 8v8 field as on the regulation field.
“We still have to make good passes, use the space and find our teammates,” she said. “It’s the same game, but a little smaller.”
Kaelyn Lawson of Voorheesville, who teams with Isabella Provost up front on the U13s, isn’t worried about playing teams that will be total unknowns. Not with a spot in next month’s nationals, set for Tulsa, Olka., on the line.
“The coaches tell us just to play like we can,” she said. “This is a great chance to play in a big tournament, and maybe get to the nationals.”
Provost, a student in the Shaker system, is happy to still be playing. The winner from Region I advances to play in the nationals
“The coaches told us if we played well, and kept getting better, we could get to the regional tournament,” she said. “This is a huge opportunity for us.”
“Some of these girls have been in our club for several years,” said Villamil. “We train every one of our teams the same way. Our philosphy is to develop each player’s skill so that they can become complete players.
“Most kids naturally want to score goals when they first start. We stress to them that everyone’s role is important. A defensive play that saves a goal is as good as a play that results in a goal.
“At this age, the positions usually sort themselves out. They start to see the overall picture.”