Carolina Elite Soccer Academy is one of the nation’s top soccer clubs. As a result, they put on some of the toughest tournaments in the region every year. The week before Thanksgiving, several FC Alliance teams headed east for CESA’s annual Verizon Fall Challenge. Impressively, three of them worked their way to the finals of their respective divisions: 97 Girls Gold, 99 Boys Gold, and 00 Girls Pool 1. Another team, 01 Girls Pool 1B, finished as semifinalists.
The 97 Girls Gold made an impressive run through pool play, winning two and tying one. Both wins were by 2-0 scores, over Tophat from Atlanta and the GCCSA Cobras of North Carolina. They tied the host CESA team 0-0. The solid results netted the 97 Girls Gold a spot in the championship game, where they fell to a powerful CSA Torsion team 2-0.
One of the most exciting finals of the tournament involved the FC Alliance 99 Boys Gold. Going up against CESA in the championship game, the boys lost a 5-3 shootout. Not only were eight goals scored, but quite a few of them were very impressive, from both sides. In one stretch of approximately ten minutes, the two teams combined for four goals.
To earn a spot in the final game, the 99 Boys Gold won their four-team bracket. They defeated CASA Orange (2-1) and CESA Pool 3B (4-2), and then tied GA-SC Bulls Black (1-1). It was a great weekend for one of the club’s most persistent teams.
“It was exciting to see these boys rise to the big occasion and earn the respect they have been craving all season,” said U12 FC Alliance Director Russell Stewart. “It was definitely a perfect way to end a season of hard work and perseverance.”
The 00 Girls Pool 1 also finished their season with a strong showing. Playing in the top U11 girls bracket, it was a roller coaster of emotions all weekend. After a disappointing 4-1 loss to CESA Premier to open the tournament, the 00 Girls Pool 1 roared back by defeating one of Georgia’s top teams, Norcross Fury Premier, by a 2-1 score. Ellie Weekly scored both goals, including the game winning penalty kick with less than five minutes to play. Gwen Breslin created the opportunity after being taken down in the penalty box on a breakaway to goal. In the third pool play game, the girls tied one of the top teams in South Carolina, LCSC United. The day before, LCSC defeated CESA Premier. In a back and forth game, both the FC Alliance team and LCSC had opportunities to score goals, but strong goalkeeping play kept the score 0-0. Alexandra Kokoris played the entire game in goal for Alliance.
The finals was a rematch between the 00 Girls Pool 1 and LCSC United. Although FC Alliance scored first, LCSC clawed back and won 3-2 in a thriller.
“It was disappointing to lose in the finals,” said one of the coaches, Filip Leander. “However, we were getting killed by teams of this caliber at the beginning of the season, and now we are beating Norcross and playing LCSC evenly. I am extremely proud of our team. They‘ve worked extremely hard.”