Storm girls take 2nd at Youth Soccer National Championships


The Ponte Vedra Storm U16 girls soccer team finished No. 2 in the country at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Lancaster, Mass., on Sunday. It marked the best national placement for a Florida U16 team in 14 years.

"Itís a pretty amazing feat, what they accomplished," said Storm coach Luis Torres, who doubles as an assistant for the University of North Florida womenís soccer team. "I just felt they were so focused and mentally and physically prepared to go do this."

The team is comprised of Annie Bobbitt, Alli Brashear, Morgan Brian, Noel Crane, Theresa Diederich, Madeline Forrestel, Allie Gerry, Madison Hartley, Tyler Law, Ansley Morgan, Brooke OíHare, Carson Pickett, Gabby Ragazzo, McKenzie Ryan, Kaili Torres, Sarah Voigt, Nicole White, head coach Luis Torres and assistant coach Mike Pickett.

Getting to the national championship was a three-legged journey: a state championship, a regional championship and finally a six-team national tournament.

"Itís extremely difficult to get to where they got," Torres said. "Thereís a reason why nobody did it for 14 years. Your team has to be peaking at the right time. Thatís the key."

The Storm went 2-0-1 at nationals, losing 1-0 in an even title match against the DeAnza (Calif.) Force. That lone goal bounced off the crossbar, the right post and the left post to sneak in. It was that close.

"It was a tight, tight match," Torres said. "I thought we would get in towards the end, but they held on and their keeper came up big for them. It was one of those games that you wish you could replay, but you wish things could go differently."

The Storm faced a tough draw at nationals just to reach the championship game. Two of their first three matches were against the 2008 national runners-up and the 2008 national champions.

Kaili Torres scored in the first game, a 1-1 tie against the team that finished second last year. They won their second match, 5-2, on goals by Gerry (two), Brashear, Brian and Torres.

The winner of the third match against the defending national champions from Texas was do or die. The winner would advance to the title game.

Law and Brashear provided goals in a 2-0 win to move Ponte Vedra one win away from a national title that proved elusive.

Coach Luis Torres said the team, whose core has played together for seven years, is already aiming for a national championship this time next year in the U17 division.