The 15U West Florida Flames girls soccer team is one of 16 teams in the country to qualify for the national playoffs in Dallas this June. This is the first time that the club has earned a bid to nationals.
Head coach Peter Gutsche said that the team’s chemistry and camaraderie are huge reasons for its success.
“The girls are very supportive of one another, and they work extremely hard in every game,” he said. “That’s the one thing that to me stands out, is that they work extremely hard and are together as a team.”
Since February 26, the team, which is a part of the Developmental Player League, has gone on a run of six wins, one loss and one tie, scoring 21 goals and conceding only 10 over those eight games. The 15U club is a combination of players from the West Florida Flames and Tampa Dynamo organizations and consists of high school and middle school students from all over the county.
Schools represented include Newsome, Lennard, Armwood, Bell Creek Academy, Bloomingdale, Spoto, Riverview and Mulrennan, to name a few. The senior club team has competed in several showcases throughout the state this year in order to get their players seen in front of college coaches.
“My favorite part of playing on this team is that everyone works together and plays as a team,” said midfielder/forward Addison Kapustiak. “This year, we have grown so much, and we celebrate each other’s accomplishments. My most memorable moments from this season are playing with this team and building my confidence as a player, especially with a coach who reminds us all of our worth on the team.”
Players on the roster include Lori Rosenau, Gabrielle Flores, Ana McMahon, Olivia Scott, Avery Haddon, Julianna Grossglass, Ryleigh Marcum, Lily Scott, Avery Grady, Laura Brucato, Gabriela Morales, Sanai Ames, Kapustiak, Gabrielle Yang, Avery Michiels, Kayleigh Belton, Zana Anderson and Nevaeh Tran.
“Being a brand-new team, we have grown so much from the start of the season,” said midfielder/forward Grady. “Getting into nationals was a huge accomplishment, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of our coach pushing us to be our best all season. Our hard work has paid off, and whether or not we win nationals, we are proud of our accomplishments.”
The team has aspirations of winning the club’s first national championship and, of course, having fun and making memories along the way. The tournament occurs from Tuesday through Sunday, June 21-26. They play in a Memorial Day weekend tournament three weeks before nationals as a tune-up.
“My goals for nationals are to go and give it my all and to have fun and make memories with my teammates,” said Kapustiak. “As for our team goals, we want to go and show everyone that we worked hard all year and that we deserve to be there.”