After winning last year’s State Cup, the Alliance/Columbus Express Soccer Club U13 Orange team had to go all the way to Wisconsin to play in the Region II Championships.
The team went 0-3 in group play in that tournament. But after winning another State Cup as a U14 squad this season, it is determined to fare better in this year’s Region II Championships, which will be held much closer to home at Westfield’s Grand Park.
“I know most of my family is coming up to watch and support, and the younger teams are coming up to support,” goalkeeper Brea Hunter said. “We’re the example team for a lot of other teams in this club, so I think it’s good.”
The Alliance/Express open the group stage at 11 a.m. today against Total Football Academy from Cincinnati. It will play United Hurricanes from Wisconsin at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and the LSC EGA Maroon from Nebraska at 11 a.m. Sunday.
The group winner will advance to the semifinals, which will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The championship will be at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships July 26-31 in Frisco, Texas.
“I think our chances are OK,” coach Kenrick Ramirez said. “Obviously, all the teams are good that we’re playing, but all the teams that we’re playing, we match up fairly well against. I think last year, it was great to get there. This year, we expect to win.”
The Alliance/Express went 13-1-3 overall this season, including 6-0-1 in winning the Midwest Regional League. It captured the Red Lion Tournament on April 29 to May 1 in Indianapolis.
All of that success came despite missing some key players for large parts of the season. Hunter, who will be a freshman at Columbus East, missed six games with an injury; and Lindsey Stoughton, who also will be a freshman at East, sustained a concussion during basketball season and didn’t return until the State Cup.
“I had a lot of support from everybody, and I think that helped me get back quicker,” Stoughton said. “Coach said we are better than we were last year, so we have a better chance at winning more games.”
Although Grand Park has some turf fields, all of the U14 games will be played on grass. Alliance/Express played a scrimmage game on one of those fields Wednesday.
“We’ve played on the fields a lot, so we’re pretty familiar with the surface,” said midfielder Christie DeDomenic, who will be a sophomore at Columbus North. “I guess that’s an advantage.”
Forwards Sasha Thompson of Terre Haute (19 goals) and Carlie Werner of Batesville (13 goals) are the leading scorers for the season. Midfielder Jenna Lang, who will be a seventh-grader at St. Bartholomew, leads the squad with eight assists.
Dakota Meadows of Martinsville, who is the Alliance/Express U13 goalkeeper, stepped in when Hunter was injured.
“It was a pretty good overall season, especially considering all the injuries we had,” Hunter said. “I remember at one point, at least half our team was out, and some of our younger kids had to step up. I think it showed real tenacity to continue to win state again and go back to regional.”
The Alliance/CESC U14 girls Orange will play Total Football Academy at 11 a.m. today, United Hurricanes from Wisconsin at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and the LSC EGA Maroon from Nebraska at 11 a.m. Sunday in the group stage at Grand Park in Westfield. The semifinals will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and the finals are at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The roster for the Alliance/Columbus Express Soccer Club U14 Orange girls:
Ellie Price;Terre Haute
Sasha Thompson;Terre Haute
Coaches: Kenrick Ramirez and Doug Bruce