Fusion is hoping the third time is the charm.
The team of players from around the Capital Region, coached by former Shenendehowa and Penn State standout Liz Villamil, opens play in the National Presidents Cup Championship tournament this morning in Auburndale, Fla. The trip to the national finals is the third in as many years for most of the girls on this team, one of four regional champions to make it to the under-17 national event.
“It’s pretty remarkable that this group, basically the same girls, has won regionals and gotten to the national tournament three years in a row,” said Villamil. “How many teams can say that? They had to win some big tournaments against good competition to get there.”
Playing well against top-tier
opposition is nothing new for this group, which finished third in last year’s U16 national finals. The goal is to win one more game this weekend.
“It’s a big accomplishment that we’ve been able to go three straight years, but this is our last chance,” said central defender Kelsey Moss, who plays for Catholic Central during the school year.
The U17 division is the oldest age group in the tournament, which includes five boys’ and five girls’ age divisions, from U13-U17.
The Fusion is the only New York team of the 88 competing this weekend.
“We really want to win this year, seeing this is our third year,” said Mackenzie Hinchliffe, another three-year national tourney vet who won a state title last fall with Hoosick Falls.
Madeline Saccoccio has been to the state high school final four twice with Schalmont, including a championship run in 2011. She’d like to add a national title in her third and final try with this group.
“That’s the goal,” said the forward, who will begin her senior year at the Rotterdam school next month.
Saccocio feels her team has one advantage over its competition, which comes from North Dakota, Texas and Washington.
“It’s not at the same site, but we’re used to the routine,” she said. “We know how to prepare.”
As for the level of competition, Saccocio has noticed a difference.
“It’s bigger, because you’re playing against teams from around the country,” she said.
“They’ve really worked hard, all year, to get back to the nationals,” said Villamil, whose team went 5-0, scoring 28 goals and surrendering only three, in winning the Region I national qualifier Memorial Day weekend, “Since then, they’ve continued to work hard, preparing for nationals. They really want to win this time.”
The Fusion plays Tri-City Storm Black, the Moorhead, N.D.-based Region II champ, this morning, gets Region IV champ Eastside (Wash.) FC Saturday and finishes group play against the Lady Lions (San Antonio), the Region II winner, Saturday. All games start at 10 a.m.
The consolation and championship games are set for 8 a.m. Sunday.
“It’s pretty intense,” summed up Moss. “You’re playing for a national title.”
(High school in parentheses)
Kaleigh Fowler (Colonie), defender; Morban Loder (Cobleskill-Richmondville), forward; Natalia Romanzo (Niskayuna), midfielder/forward; Lindsay Mulligan (Columbia), midfielder; Kelsey Moss (Catholic Central), defender; Nicole Senecal (Schuylerville), defenderl; Cassandra Robitaille (Amsterdam), goalkeeper; Nicole Meddaugh (Columbia), defender; Alison Romer (Columbia), defender; Monica Rouse (Amsterdam), midfielder; Taryn More (Oneonta), midfielder; Madeline Saccocio (Schalmont), forward; Olivia Seamans (Bolton), forward; Mackenzie Hinchliffe (Hoosick Falls), midfielder; Brittany LaPlant (Queensbury), forward; Jordynn Miller (Shenendehowa), midfielder; Brianna Feldmaier (Catholic Central), defender.