Baton Rouge Soccer Club sending three teams to U.S. Youth Soccer Region III tournament _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Natalie Presedo is the girls soccer MVP, photographed at Baton Rouge High School on Friday, April 17, 2015.

A strong showing at last month’s Louisiana Soccer Association’s State Cup resulted in a solid presence for the Baton Rouge Soccer Club at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III tournament.

Three BRSC teams, which won Competitive I state championships, will represent the local club in regional action, which gets underway Friday with pool play at the Mesa Soccer Complex in Greenville, South Carolina.

“We had a pretty good State Cup with five teams reaching the final,” BRSC executive director Bo Cassidy said. “We’re excited to have our Baton Rouge teams go and represent the state at regionals and compete at the highest level.”

A pair of full-fledged Baton Rouge teams — U16 and U18 girls — will carry the BRSC banner along with the BRSC/Cajun Soccer Club U17 Alliance boys, which features six players from the Baton Rouge area led by Etienne Chenevert and Michael James of Baton Rouge High.

The regional consists of 12 state champions with the winner advancing to the U.S. Youth National Tournament July 25-31 in Frisco, Texas.

“If we can start off with three points, it would definitely make the weekend a lot easier,” said U18s coach Roger Charcap of Parkview Baptist. “All the teams at the 18s level are pretty solid.”

BRSC 18s open pool play at 7:45 a.m. Friday with Fayetteville, Arkansas followed with Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, on Saturday and Collierville, Tennessee on Sunday.

The 18s went 7-0-1 en route to winning the state’s Competitive I regular season championship and avenged a loss in the 2015 state semifinals to Slidell with a 2-1 victory in the title match on Natalie Presedo’s goal in the 85th minute.

Presedo, a Baton Rouge High graduate and Alabama-Birmingham signee, is part of a deep group of forwards and midfielders that gives 18s plenty of scoring options along with East Ascension’s Blair Laiche, Ascension Episcopal’s Sarah Beadle (LSU signee), St. Joseph’s Kennedy Achord and University’s Jessica Shelby (Nicholls State signee).

Charcap’s equally encouraged by the play of his goalkeepers — Sofia McNulty of Dutchtown and Aleah Harris of St. Joseph’s — along with center backs Courtney LeJeune of SJA and Caroline LeCoq of EA.

That group combined to allow three goals in eight state league games and one at State Cup.

“I think we played well leading up to state,” Charcap said. “I didn’t think we played our best at state, but we were able to pull it off. We have a lot of heart and drive. They really wanted to win state, and it showed.”

The byword for BRSC’s 16s, coached by Willie Davis of The Dunham School, has been adversity.

They’ve played a large portion of the spring without St. Amant forward Lorelei Gaffney because of an ACL tear. After briefly returning to the lineup, Gaffney reinjured the same knee and will miss regional play.

The same can be said for starting defender Anna Leigh Shaffett of U-High, who is sidelined by torn ankle ligaments.

“We were riding a bit of a high and have gotten hit with quite a few injuries in the last few weeks,” Davis said. “It’s going to be kind of interesting to see.”

One key player that’s returned to form after a six-week absence because of injury (fractured ankle) has been SJA’s Meghan Johnson to key the team’s attack along with Makenzie Mahar of Denham Springs.

Baton Rouge High’s Amanda Hilliard will start in goal, but Kendall Perryman of St. Michael the Archangel is expected to play as well, Davis said.

BRSC, which won its regular-season title, atoned for a 2-0 loss to Mandeville in last year’s State Cup final with a 3-2 semifinal victory before defeating the CSC Rage 2-1 in the final.

“There have been games where we’ve been outplayed, and we’ve gotten through them,” said Davis, whose team opens pool play at 2:15 p.m. Friday against Brentwood, Tennessee. “We’ve won some games we probably shouldn’t by just battling and scrapping.”

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