Sting 97 and Solar Chelsea 95 Seek National Titles in South Carolina
Three North Texas teams win Southern Regional championships; two to compete at Nationals next week
Three North Texas teams won their age groups at last month’s Southern Regionals in Greenville, S.C., with the two oldest earning a return trip to the Palmetto State for this month’s US Youth Soccer National Championships, July 25-29.
The most prestigious tournament in American youth soccer, the US Youth Soccer National Championships brings together the 60 best boys and girls U14-U19 youth soccer teams in the country, as determined by State and Regional qualifying tournaments, and the US Youth Soccer National League. Live scores, standings and daily recaps with photos can be found online at championships.usyouthsoccer.org.
Two North Texas teams — Sting 97 girls and Solar Chelsea 95 boys — will have national titles in their sights this month after emerging from strong fields to win Southern Regional titles this month.
Neither took a conventional path to the title game. Sting 97, the North Texas State Cup champions, earned just one point from their first two games in group play, and were facing early elimination before eking out a 1-0 win in their final round-robin game to earn a wildcard berth in the quarterfinals.
It was there, though, that Sting’s stellar defense took over. A 1-0 quarterfinal win over Florida’s Magic Jacks was followed by a 2-1 win over Tennessee’s 97 FC Alliance Black in the semis, setting up a rematch with South Texas champs AHFC 97 from Houston, who had beaten Sting 1-0 in group play. This time, though, it was Sting who got on the board first with a goal by Vianei Sanchez, then held on for the 1-0 championship game win.
The Solar Chelsea 95 Boys were likewise challenged to overcome obstacles en route to a Regional title, including one of the most psychologically devastating a soccer team can endure — surrendering an own goal early in a major game.
That was the challenge facing Solar in the semi-final, when an own goal put them down 1-0 to Texas rivals AHFC 95. Rather than lose their composure, however, the Solar boys rallied together until Casey Eaton was finally able to break through with the equalizer in the 73rd, followed by DeShawon Nembhard’s game-winner in the final minute of play.
Solar rode the momentum from that emotional come-from-behind win into their finals matchup against Florida’s Jacksonville United, scoring in the 42nd and 67th minute to cue a 2-1 win and earn themselves a berth at Nationals this month.
Rounding out North Texas’ trio of Southern Regional champions were the Dallas Texans U13 girls, who captured their first Southern Regional crown on the strength of an early goal by Ashlyn Heckman in the final vs. Oklahoma’s Tulsa Blitz 99 White. The Texans’ girls were among the strongest at Regionals, posting a 4-0-1 record in five games. The 2012 National Championships will be the last one not to include U13 teams, who will join the field at Nationals next summer in a recent change announced by US Youth Soccer.