Update – for the St. Louis SC visitors, there are a number of photos and stories on this site from State Cup, Girls District, Sectional & Quarterfinal matches and general soccer items. To find items or people of interest, type their name in the search box on the top right and this site will find any article that references that term/individual. Thanks for visiting & enjoy!
Recruiting Wednesday returns this week with Chealsey Russell (Kickapoo HS) who shares with us what it’s like to be part of a National Championship team. Chealsey has recently returned from Orlando where her St. Louis Soccer Club U15 Girls team won the national title. The goals she has set and the sacrifices she and her family make to reach these goals have been well documented, with not one but two articles in the News-Leader. Springfield Soccer is happy to bring you her story.
We just won Nationals, yay! Iâ€™m very excited that we won but I am also very glad to be back at home with my family, with my boyfriend and back in my own bed. My journey to Orlando began at 4:00 a.m., July 25th, when Mom drove me to St. Louis to meet up with the team at the airport. The group includes the team, the coaching staff (Coaches Walters, Miller, and Beger), the club director (Mr. Pecher), and representatives from MYSA, traveling to Orlando together! We have a direct flight to Orlando and when we arrived we went straight to the hotel where we settled in. Dinner later that evening at the Aloha was hosted by the MYSA and it was amazing. I wouldnâ€™t normally tell people about the food I eat but this is worth sharing. It was an all-you-can eat buffet and it started with pineapple bread followed by a tray of food that included wild rice, steamed vegetables, wontons and different types of sauces. That was followed by shish-ka-bobs of grilled shrimp, chicken, and pork chops. Then they brought pineapple on sticks to dip in caramel sauce. Dessert followed that. I am obsessed with chocolate so I got a rich chocolate mousse. That had to be the most amazing meal I have ever eaten in my whole life.
No parents are here yet because games donâ€™t begin until Wednesday morning so itâ€™s just us girls until tomorrow night or Wednesday morning. We went back to the hotel after dinner and the girls pretty much went back to our assigned rooms. I have 2 roommates and we talked until curfew at 10:30 pm.
Tuesday began with the realization of where we are and why we are here. Our hotel hosts all of the teams, all of the college coaches and any other individuals involved with the tournament. As we got up for breakfast and walked the hotel we saw girls and boys teams from all over the country. The Dallas Texans, PDA from New Jersey, the Surf and the Slammers from California, Eclipse from Chicago, and here we are the lone representative from Missouri. We really started to understand that we were seeded number 4 out of the 4 teams in our group, and that the Surf, Texans, and PDA donâ€™t really look at us as hard as they look at each other. At breakfast and then in the lobby we started to see coaches from top University programs gathering in small groups.
Later in the afternoon there was a banquet for all of the teams at the Disney complex and we had to show up in a dress and behave like proper representatives of the State of Missouri. The banquet was neat but also something we just wanted to get out of. Game time is less than 24 hours away and we are training again tonight. Tonightâ€™s training was mostly about relaxing and focusing on what we are here to do. Of the 3 teams we play, the San Diego Surf is the only team we have never played and they are our first game. Honestly our team is not nervous and we are definitely not intimidated. We do respect the fact that all of the teams here are top teams with top players. Pressure and stress is probably the best way to describe our feelings, not fear.
Wednesday and the games finally begin! After flying in the airplane together, sleeping together, eating together, training together and going to the team banquet together we finally get to do what we do bestâ€¦play together as a team. Walking into the Disney Complex we saw that we will have some of the best fields to play on. Game intensity is starting to enter my mind. We took the field 30 minutes prior to game time for warm up. Both teams are eyeing each other with uncertainty because it will be our first meeting, it is at Nationalâ€™s, and you canâ€™t afford to make a mistake. The Surf are a well disciplined team that gave us a very nice game but we pulled off the win 2-1 with Blake Miller (IWA) getting both of our goals. Temperatures are in the upper 90â€™s and there is no time to rest because any let down could be the opportunity the other team is looking for. After playing the Surf I feel that they are a great team but they donâ€™t have the outstanding player that is dominant or threatening. They are a great team that did everything right but at this level you have to have some studs or stand outs that step up their game in time of need and I just didnâ€™t see any of their players step up. As we were walking over to the parents we noticed that about 5 or 6 college coaches had stopped by to watch our game. At this point all we wanted to do is hug our parents whom we hadnâ€™t seen for 2 or 3 days and go back to the hotel and the air conditioning. By the time we showered and relaxed it was time to meet for another team dinner. Our curfew tonight is 9:00 pm due to a 7:30 am game time tomorrow morning. At dinner we discussed what we did right and wrong. We are trying to stay focused on each game. No changes will be made for tomorrowâ€™s game.
Thursday morning is the big one for us knowing that if we win it would almost assure us a spot in the final. PDA is a great team from New Jersey that we have played twice, with both matches ending in a tie, including a year ago at the Nike headquarters in Portland, Oregon. What we didnâ€™t know until the game started is that they have switched from being a direct style of team to a possession team similar to what you would see in Missouri from a Gallagher boys team. They were by far the most skilled team we have ever played as they moved the ball for the first 15 or 20 minutes at will until we finally figured out how to mark up and shut down their outlets, without chasing the ball around the field. At 20 minutes into the game we were given water breaks due to the excessive heat. It was at this point that our coaches were able to help us understand how to play against a team with this style and we played the next 20 minutes pretty even.
We were 0-0 going in to the second half and both teams had won their first game so this was a huge second half for us. The first 10 minutes of the second half you could tell we wanted it as we put together several attacks on goal. During one, I was fortunate enough to receive a pass tucked behind the defender and I one touched the shot into the back of the net to put us up by one. PDA came back with a goal to tie the game 1-1 which immediately brought on the pressure again. But this time we were putting the pressure on them, now that we had figured out their possession game. They tried to play direct with us, which was a huge mistake because we are a very strong, fast and athletic team. This change in their style allowed us to go on to a 3-1 victory.
This game was one of the best I have ever been part of and PDA had several studs stepping up at given times including #18 who will be a star some where in college. We are now starting to gain more attention from the college coaches as we had about a dozen at our game, including Notre Dame, University of Texas, North Carolina, Auburn, Xavier, University of Florida, Southern Methodist (SMU) and several others.
I spent the afternoon at the mall with my mom and a few of my teammates since it is one of the few places we can go and stay in the air conditioning. We are not allowed any pool time, beach time or amusement park timeâ€¦.it is Nationals and we are here to win for Missouri. This evening we had another team dinner but none have been as good as the first. Most of the discussion tonight was about not letting down even though we have 2 wins and should go through. Texas has to beat us by 2 to take our spot in the finals. The Texans will be a perfect match up of teams as we both play an attacking style of soccer and will go right through each other to try and win. It should make for a great 3rd game but one we need to be ready for.
Fridays match up is on! We knew we were in for a war and we got one. This was an extremely physical game with a few yellow cards, several stoppages for injuries, and a red card in the second half against a Texan player that took out our goalie, who left in an ambulance. None of the play was dirty or cheap, it was just an intense game with everything on the line and nobody wants to go home early. We were down 1-0 in the second half and knew we needed to at least hold on to this or try and get a goal and tie it to move on to the final. With about 3 minutes left in the game the Texans organized one more attack and the ball was played off of a deflection to a Texan player in an offside position who turned and scored. We collapsed inside thinking that we had just lost our chance to move on and the Texans felt they had just won the game. BUT, in just a matter of seconds everything changed as we all noticed that the AR had his flag up and had called offside. We held on for the next few minutes to advance with a 1-0 loss to one of the best teams we could ever want to play.
We are going to the finals on Sunday from one of the toughest brackets ever. 3 of the 4 teams had 2 wins and 1 loss, each had 6 qualifying points, goal differentials in the tie breakers were tied, head to head we had all beaten each other, and so it came down to the fewest goals allowed. That put St. Louis Soccer Club into the finals against PDA for a great rematch of 2 teams that now know each others play.
Friday afternoon I just wanted to get away to relax so I went to the movies with a couple of team mates and my family. We saw â€œWedding Crashersâ€ which gave me some great laughs and got my mind off of the games for a little bit. That evening I wanted to go to dinner with my family to Macaroni Grill. My dad said he knew where it was and would take us. We left at 5:00 pm to eat dinner and after driving all over Florida for 2 hours my dad finally found it at 7:00 pm, just 2 minutes from our hotel. If you could have recorded that 2 hours and played it back later it would have been hilarious as my dad didnâ€™t stand a chance listening to my mom and I both telling him what a moron he was. After getting there at 7:00 pm it was a one hour wait and I had to be back at the hotel by 8:30 pm so we ended up at Olive Garden. I was not in a good mood!
Saturday morning, we had team training for stretching and light exercise at 10:00 a.m. followed by brunch at 11:15 a.m. That afternoon we went to another movie with most of my teammates to see â€œCharley & The Chocolate Factoryâ€. At this point we are just trying to pass the day any way we can so we can get to tomorrow. Everyone is mentally exhausted from the previous three games and the pressure of trying to hold on in that 3rd game to advance. I have won State twice and Regionalâ€™s twice but nothing has compared to this experience, it is so intense. We have all been together for a week now in a hotel and you can just tell we are all getting a little edgy but when the game gets here that edge will be necessary on the field. Saturday was pretty non-eventful but now comes Sunday.
Sunday is finally hereâ€¦.the Finals. This was everything that a National Final should be. Great play, great players, even possession between the 2 teams and a 0-0 score at the end of regulation. After playing each other a few days earlier we both knew how to adjust and that made it almost impossible for anyone to dominate. Both teams hit the cross bar a few times in regulation but that was it, this was just a great game and one that Iâ€™ll always remember. We scored in the first overtime period and held on to that 1-0 score through the second overtime to claim the National Championship for St. Louis Soccer Club, the State of Missouri, and Region 2.
Excitement was instant but relief was huge, as if somebody had just lifted a huge weight off of us. The trophies, medals, jackets, back packets, t-shirts, music, photos, applause, etcâ€¦â€¦was great and a lot of fun but in the end it was a bitter sweet moment because 3 of our players are not playing with us next year and this was our last time together. There was laughing, hugging, crying and all of the emotions that you could come up with in this period of great gains with our win, but with the loss of our friends and teammates. It makes us all appreciate both the game of soccer and the importance of teammates and friends. I donâ€™t like to lose, losing a game makes me mad, but losing teammates and friends is a feeling that I donâ€™t like to express.
I am now home relaxing and our team is taking the next 3 weeks off before we start all over again for the year as the reigning National Champs. Everyone will want to beat us, we will have a huge bulls eye on our back where ever we go to play, which is the only downside to being the champions.
Chealsey writes about how the team was considered the weakest in the group and apparently Soccer America agrees since their February 2005 rankings of the Top Girls Club’s did not even include St. Louis SC while the San Diego Surf and PDA Power (NJ) are ranked #1 and #2 respectively. In fact, the Players Development Academy (PDA) had four girls teams reach nationals and three of the four made it to the finals although none won a title this year.
Chealsey will be back next Wednesday when she finishes the story by describing her experiences of the past several years pursuing her soccer goals. It will be a fine addition for any player considering the trade-offs she and her brother Skyler have made as well as touching on the college recruiting process.