THE Columbus Express Soccer Club has had teams play in the Midwest Regional League before.
But never prior to this year has an Express squad qualified to play in the MRL on its first attempt. That changed recently when the U13 girls team, coached by Kenrick Ramirez, made the league based on its success as a U12 squad last year.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for our team to be able to play in a league against tough teams and get better competition,” Sophie Weeter said.
Weeter is one of eight girls from Columbus on the 14-player roster. The others come from North Vernon, Batesville and Terre Haute.
Besides the Express, the U13 girls teams in the MRL this year will include two teams from Michigan; two from Cleveland; one each from Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; one from Northern Kentucky and one from Indianapolis.
“It going to be a challenge, but Kenrick likes to challenge us, so we have to keep pushing since there are better teams,” said Brea Hunter of Columbus.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to play harder, difficult teams,” said Caroline Hollenkamp of Columbus. “We definitely are coming together as a closer team when we’re doing farther trips.”
The league runs from September to June. The Express will play preseason games today in Fishers and a tournament Labor Day Weekend and will play its first MRL game Sept. 6 in Kentucky.
“I think what we’re really trying to accomplish is to become better as a team and improve,” Weeter said. “Then also, get in the top three to move up a division in the MRL.”
“Yes, it’s competitive, and yes, as coaches and as a club, we’re competitive, so we want to get results, but our main focus is the development of all the players within our organization,” Ramirez said. “I think the program is to a point as an institution where we’re doing the right things in terms of the development of kids.”
Besides Weeter, Hunter and Hollenkamp, the other Columbus kids on the U13 team are Christy DeDomenic, Maya Federle, Mya Johnson, Lindsey Stoughton and Lauryn Whitley.
“It’s massive for them because they’ve put in a little work and a lot of effort, like a lot of kids in the club right now,” Ramirez said. “This group collectively does work hard to push each other and is well-deserving of where they’re at. Now, it’s just for us to raise their soccer IQ, raise their knowledge of the game so they’re a little bit more tactical as they grow.”
The U13 level is the youngest for the MRL. Older Express teams have qualified for the league in the past.
“Christy, Maya, Caroline, Brea, Mya, Lindsey, Sophie and Lauryn are just a small sample of the many kids from Columbus who have been a part of many CESC teams at different ages and levels over the past several years,” Ramirez said. “We are always interested, no matter what age, in helping kids develop their soccer skills.”