Soccer clubs from all reaches of the South have spent the past few months organizing, training and competing as collective teams to achieve one goal — qualify to compete in the 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships.
One local squad had a much shorter period to ready itself.
The Alliance 95, an under-19 boys squad from both the Baton Rouge Soccer Club (BRSC) and the Cajun Soccer Club (CSC) in Lafayette, largely consists of college freshman. About 75 percent of the roster returned to Lafayette from school in the last month.
Roughly seven members of the squad attend out-of-state universities, meaning it’s been a long road back home to prepare for competitive club play again.
Considering the Alliance 95 has played together for four years, rebuilding team chemistry hasn’t been an issue.
“They know the way we expect them to play and the type of style we want to impose on other teams,” said Jonathan Brunet, the Alliance 95 head coach. “They’ve known our goal since I picked up the team four years ago. I think they’ll be ready to go.”
The squad reconvened during the second week of May, and after winning the State Cup and qualifying for the Regional Championships, it picked up an everyday practice schedule.
For the Alliance 95, the 2014 Region III Championships are a second chance.
With the majority of his players leaving for college, Brunet believed the 2013 campaign would be his squad’s final run.
“In the back of my head, I always kind of knew there was a chance that [putting an under-19 group together] wouldn’t happen,” Brunet said. “I almost took last year in the sense of ‘This is it.’”
But when the Alliance 95 begins play on Friday, June 20, at 10 a.m., a majority of its players will compete in a regional game for the fourth and final time.
The under-19 age group is the final stage at the club level, so the end of many of the Alliance 95’s club careers will cease if they are eliminated from the tournament.
“I think they kind of sense the end of the road there, and the expectations are high,” Brunet said. “But it’s always just great to qualify, and we’re excited about that. I’m not going to put any added pressure on them to try and get out of the group.”
Region III Championships to be used as teaching tool for young Rage 01 team
For most 12 and 13-year-olds, the middle of June means going on extended family vacations, playing out in the backyard with neighbors or spending afternoons by the pool.
The CSC Rage 01, an under-13 girls team based in Lafayette, has spent the past few weeks preparing for the Region III Championships.
It’s definitely a change from previous seasons.
“Our State Cup was five-and-a-half weeks ago,” said Aaron Cline, the Rage 01 head coach. “When State Cup was over, it was time to move on for the rest of the summer. For them to have to continue to train at a high and intense level has been a bit of a challenge.”
Cline gave the girls two weeks off after State Cup, instructing them to avoid soccer before training would pick back up.
Because the girls are so young, Cline said the preparation and competition involved with the Region III Championships is all a part of the learning process.
“This is another step at playing toward a high level for these kids,” Cline said. “They learn that in the future, once State Cup is done, they’ll have to make plans for playing through June instead of just playing through the beginning of May.”
That being said, Cline has tried to stress a fun, friendly atmosphere at practice to keep the girls interested for the future.
When dealing with a young age group, maintaining the team’s interest and love for the sport is one of the most important goals throughout the season.
“When we step on the field and train, we get after it. But before training, after training, or even during water breaks, we cut up and have a good time,” Cline said. “At the end of the day for a 12 or 13-year-old kid, if it’s not fun, they’re going to stop doing it.”
The Rage 01 will begin play on Friday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m.