SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s been a special year for the Syracuse Development Academy.
The SDA has seven boys and girls teams heading to the US Youth Soccer Regional Championships in Charleston, WV.
“Yeah, that’s the most for us. It’s great that we got out of the state and we have some state championships, but we want to go down and try to have some teams go to nationals,” said Mike Paolini, SDA Director of Soccer.
The SDA serves youth soccer players from age 4 to 19.
This year; the 2007 girls (12U team), 2006 girls (13U team), 2002 girls (17U team), 2000 girls(19U team), 2006 boys (13U team), 2005 boys (14U team) and 2003 boys (16U team) are heading to West Virginia.
Six of those teams won State Cup Championships in early June, the 2006 boys earned a trip as a wild-card team.
The ’06 boys are in their first season as a combined team after a merger with another club program, Fusion, but some of the team members have experience at regionals and know it won’t be easy.
“We have to persevere. Even when we’re down and like late in the game we need to persevere because whatever it takes to win regionals we got to do it,” said Martin Kuci, J-D middle school seventh grader.
It is a slightly different story for the girls on the ’02 team. The team came up short in the group play a season ago and is looking to go further this year.
“We know what to expect. Going into this year our hopes are to move past, get to the championship game and hopefully win. Our bracket’s pretty tough. But I think all of us know what to do and our preparing in any way possible to prove ourselves when we’re down there,” says Katie Cappelletti, J-D high school junior and 2002 girls goalkeeper.
SDA has aimed to be on the national stage since the program began as Syracuse FC in 2004. The high levels of competition have paid off for the players.
“From my point of view, this is the best way for the boys to get ready for their school seasons. The competition levels here, these are the best players from every school in the Syracuse area,” said 2006 boys assistant coach Casey Murphy.
“It has definitely trickled down. The younger girls look up to the older girls. And they know that if they are apart of this commitment and a part of this club, what it stands for and that level we want to drive them to,” said 2002 girls head coach Ryan Hall.
The program has also helped off the field. Each team is made of players from all over Upstate New York and beyond.
“I have my friends from school obviously but this friend group is so much tighter. We meet like two-three days a week. So we’re always together, we travel together, we eat together, we stay together. It’s just really tight,” says Hannah Freeman, Lowville high school junior and Rider University commit.
“I think its really helpful because SDA opens you up more doors and it opens you up to more friendships,” says Antonio Wilson, Chestnut Hill middle school seventh grader. “That’s the way you make friendships, playing sports.”
On top of the on-field success, SDA has also helped in the success of the future for some of its athletes.
“We have 54 kids, boys, and girls going into college next year which is our all-time high. So really that’s the end goal we’re looking for”, says Paolini.
The US Youth Soccer Regionals run from June 28 to July 4. Each team will play three group games and the winner of each group advances to the knockout round for semifinals. The goal is to reach the Nationals which are in Kansas in late July.
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