Region III Championships quarterfinals begin in North Little Rock, Ark.
Semifinals matchups set in Under-14 through Under-16 age groups
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (June 22, 2015) — The next step in achieving National Championship dreams started Monday for teams in the Under-14 through Under-16 age groups at 2015 US Youth Soccer Region III (South) Championships in North Little Rock, Ark.
Monday saw those age groups narrow the field from eight teams to four, as the sides took part in exciting quarterfinal matchups. The advancing teams are now preparing for the upcoming semifinal matches and a chance to get one step closer to a spot in the 2015 US Youth Soccer National Championships, held July 21-26 at the Mohawk Soccer Complex in Tulsa, Okla.
The quarterfinal round of the US Youth Soccer Region III Championships will wrap up on Tuesday at the Burns Park Soccer Complex, as the final eight teams compete in the Under-17 Boys and Girls and Under-18 Boys age groups. Meanwhile, the first finalists of the tournament will be decided when Under-13 and Under-19 squads — along with Under-18 Girls — square off in the semifinals.
The winners from Monday’s Under-14 through Under-16 games will get a day of rest before Wednesday’s semifinal matchups after they each competed in intense quarterfinals. With the quality of players competing in North Little Rock, it takes a lot of focus and effort for teams to get to this point. Monday’s matchups showed the importance of taking care of the finer details on the field, as 15 of 24 games were decided by one goal and several required overtime.
For the second straight year, Under-16 Boys Oklahoma FC 99 has played its way into the semifinal round. After coming up a game short of the final in 2014, OFC coach Stephen Phillips said his Oklahoma side will use its experience to try and take the next step this week in Arkansas.
“You learn that if you make mistakes, you’re going to get punished by the top teams,” Phillips said. “Don’t open up early and concede goals because you usually don’t get the chance to recover those goals against the very best teams."
Oklahoma FC fell behind by two goals to FC Florida 98 Elite White (FL) on Monday and needed to be at the top of its game to overcome the deficit. Phillips said the effort shown in the second half to close out the victory is what is needed each game going forward in order to come out on top against the top-level competition Oklahoma FC will face.
“To advance, it’s going to take a lot of quality on the ball because our opponents will be a top team again,” Phillips said. “This year, we have the ability — if everyone works like we did in the second half — to achieve the goal we set at the beginning of the season, which is to win the National Championship.”
Some highlights from Monday’s quarterfinal action…
In Under-16 Girls action, Tophat 17 Gold (GA) held off SCU/MP 98 Elite (SC) to claim a 3-2 win and advance to the semifinals. The Georgia side struck quickly to open the match, as Delaney Erwin and Lauren Chang each scored in the opening 15 minutes to give Tophat a 2-0 lead. SCU/MP fought back and pulled within one when Hannah Betfort found the back of the net in the 24th minute. Later in the half, Betfort rounded the keeper and slid her shot just over the goal line to level the match at 2-2. That score line didn’t last long, as Tophat’s Grace Nguyen hit a strike from distance a couple minutes later that beat the keeper. The defenses stiffened in the second half, and Nguyen’s goal proved to be the winner as Tophat held on for the 3-2 win. Tophat also saw its Under-15 and Under-14 teams secure wins on Monday to advance to their respective semifinals.
A third straight clean sheet helped 98 CASL Red (NC) advance to the Under-16 Boys semifinals with a win over Concorde Fire Elite 98/99 (GA). CASL’s Vicente Gallardo opened the scoring in the sixth minute and the North Carolina side held that lead through halftime. Midway through the second half, CASL received a quick pair of goals from Quinn Albrecht and Robert Conger to push its lead to 3-0. The defense, which has allowed just one goal in Arkansas, continued its stellar play to help CASL come away with the 3-0 victory.
In other Under-16 Boys quarterfinal action, Oklahoma FC 99 (OK) overcame an early two-goal deficit to win, 5-3, in a back-and-forth game with FC Florida 98 Elite White (FL). The Florida side jumped in front when Alexander Turner scored twice in a two minutes to put it up, 2-0. OFC’s Dante Brigida matched Turner’s tallies with two goals of his own 10 minutes later to level the score. Each side found the back of the net in the 27th minute, as Florida’s Filip Guhr and OFC’s Austin Needham netted goals. Oklahoma’s Daryl Dike capped the wild first half with a 34th-minute goal to put his side in front. The defenses settled in after the break, as Oklahoma clung to its one-goal lead. OFC got some breathing room in the 70th minute when Kelvin Chandler converted a penalty kick, and the Oklahoma side went on to win, 5-3 — advancing to the Region III semifinals for a second straight year.
A late tying goal helped FC Alliance 00 (TN) advance to the Under-15 Girls semifinals with a 2-1 penalty shootout win over PTFC Lady Black (NC). The North Carolina side struck first when Skyler Prillaman scored in the 23rd minute. It appeared that goal was destined to take PTFC through, but Allison Dunn netted an equalizer for FC Alliance in the 70th minute to force overtime. After two scoreless overtime periods, FC Alliance prevailed, 7-6, in a shootout to claim the victory.
Another Under-15 Girls semifinal needed a shootout to decide the winner as a pair of North Texas foes couldn’t be separated in regulation or overtime. Sting Central 00 Parker (TX-N) and Solar Chelsea Elite 00 (TX-N) finished the first 80 minutes in a scoreless tie before heading to overtime. Solar had the better share of possession in the attacking half during overtime and nearly won the game with a header seconds before the referee whistled to end the extra periods. In the shootout, Solar’s Messiah Bright stuttered to send the keeper the wrong way and converted her kick, which proved to be the difference in Solar’s 4-3 shootout victory.
After doing just enough to escape its group, defending National Champion United FA 00 Premier (GA) is moving on to the Under-15 Boys semifinals by way of a 2-0 win over FC Dallas 2000 Premier (TX-N). Carlos Pineda scored on either side of halftime to give the Georgia side all the offense it needed. After conceding twice in a loss to West Florida Flames 99 Elite (FL) to end group play, the United FA defense locked down on Monday to record a clean sheet against FC Dallas and push the team into the semifinals.
In Under-14 Girls action, defending Region III Champion Dallas Kicks SC 01 (TX-N) needed late heroics to overcome a great performance by CCSC 00 Sol Black (FL). After a scoreless first half, the Kicks got on the scoreboard first thanks to a 40th-minute strike by Taylor Tufts. CCSC pushed back and eventually netted an equalizer when Kirstin Sciartelli beat the keeper. In the final minute of regulation, a Kicks’ cross into the box was flicked on to Tufts, who gathered the ball at the back post and finished to give the Kicks a 2-1 win and spot in the semifinals.
A couple of experienced sides met in the Under-14 Boys quarterfinals, as 2014 Region III finalist Tampa Bay United (FL) took on 2014 semifinalist SCU/MP 00 Elite (SC). SCU/MP looked to be in control early, as Ari Ogretmen gave his side a 1-0 lead. However, Tampa Bay generated a couple of quick strikes from Joshua Colledge and Nicolas Scargle to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. The South Carolina side pushed to level the score, but Tampa added an insurance goal by Brennan Breuer to seal a 3-1 win.
Regional winners of the Under-13 through Under-19 age groups earn a berth to the 2015 US Youth Soccer National Championships, which will be played July 21-26 at the Mohawk Soccer Complex in Tulsa, Okla.
The US Youth Soccer National Championships will consist of US Youth Soccer Regional Champions, as well as the US Youth Soccer National League qualifiers in the Under-14 through Under-18 Boys and Girls age groups to complete the field of 96 teams.
Daily reports and complete results from the US Youth Soccer Region III Championships are available on http://championships.usyouthsoccer.org/regionIII/.
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