Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soccer Team from Jacksonville Takes State Club Championship

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soccer Team from Jacksonville Takes State Club Championship

Article excerpt

When the First Coast United Crew under-17 girls soccer team defeated the Manatee Magic 3-1 in the State Cup tournament in Fort Myers on June 6, the victors accomplished something no other Jacksonville area soccer team had: a state club championship.

While lifting the State Cup would be a dream ending for many teams, the Crew's history-making season is far from over as it heads to the Southern Regionals in Edmond, Okla., June 24, where state champions from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas will meet.

What makes the group's achievement even more impressive is its limited roster size. Only 12 players were eligible for the state finals because of a combination of injuries and unplanned departures. That left the Crew with only one eligible substitute and almost cost the team in the final.

In the semifinals, a 2-2 score after regulation and overtime versus Orlando's FC America Kumba sent the teams to penalty kicks. In the shootout Nicole Conrad, Kara Williams, Jessica Nunziante and Jenny Braddock converted to send the Crew to the final.

Playing its second game in as many days, the fatigued Crew fell behind 1-0 before second-half goals by Conrad and Lauren Chase. The Magic pulled its goalkeeper for a field player late in the game, and the Crew added an empty-netter.

"We were definitely tired from the night before," said Chase, who is team captain along with goalkeeper Ali Mims. "But we just played with a lot of heart and it was really about who wanted it more."

The gutsy display came as no surprise to Crew coach Carlos Manuel. The 1990 Fletcher graduate had been the team's leader since the club first came together as an under-11 squad in the fall of 1993 and has coached the team through each successive age group.

"They're a very talented group," he said. "The environments that they were in growing up really helped them out a lot."

The team's roster is primarily composed of players from the traditionally soccer-rich Beaches region. Eight players attend Fletcher while Mims and Maggie Tuttle play for Nease High. …

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