RSL Florida's girls under-16 team became the first in the club's history to advance out of the group stages at the U.S. Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championships, but it could go no further, falling 3-0 to the AFC Lightning from Atlanta in the quarterfinals.
The Lightning opened the scoring 15 minutes into the game on a goal from a penalty kick, and they doubled the lead less than a minute into the second half before adding a late third to advance to the semifinals. Despite the defeat, RSL coach Jim Cote said he thought the team performed well against a strong side.
Cote added that he saw great progress from a team that a season ago was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Florida State Cup. With the confidence the team has developed, Cote said he expects bigger things from the group as it enters the under-17 season.
"I think the big thing is they have a level of belief, a true belief that they can win any time they play," Cote said.
RSL's current under-17 team and its under-19 squad weren't able to advance from the group stage, and neither was Hillsborough County United's boys under-19 team. HCU coach Eric Sims was disappointed he was unable to take a full squad to the tournament, with injuries to some players and one former U.S. under-17 national team player, Jeremy Hall, being held out by his University of Maryland coach.
The HCU team will stay together, and is now in the middle of trying to qualify for the United Soccer League's Super-20 North American Championships at the end of July.
The USL Super-Y League is also next on the agenda for RSL Florida's teams, but Cote said the under-16 and under-17 teams, which will combine for the competition, will get some time off before getting back on the field. With their next game scheduled for July 12, Cote thinks the break will help the players get rested.
"We've got a couple of weeks off," Cote said. "I think it'll help them get their legs back underneath them and get some vacation."
Keystone Thrilled By Baseball Victory
Keystone Little League won the first Tapi Rodriguez District 6 Tournament of Champions baseball title in its eight-year history with a 15-4 win against West Tampa Little League in the final.
Keystone went through the double-elimination tournament undefeated, and Manager Gary Haight said the accomplishment meant a lot to him and his team.
While Palma Ceia continued its run of success at the TOC, winning the three other baseball titles, Keystone's development was also reflected in the Minor, Major and Junior tournaments, with Keystone teams reaching the finals in those three as well as winning the senior title. Haight said he thought the growth in northwest Tampa around the Keystone facility at the Ed Radice Sports Complex has helped the teams develop thanks to more players now playing there.
"The Keystone/Citrus Park Little League used to be combined into one program, and when they split up eight years ago I think a lot of the talent got diluted," Haight said. "Citrus Park has had success in the past because they draw a lot of talent from the Carrollwood area, but as the Citrus Park and Odessa area continues to grow out, I think that's where Keystone has been developing some solid talent."
Next up for the Seniors is the All-Star tournament, which begins July 8. Haight said he is expecting his TOC team to stay intact, and he hopes it can make a run at an All-Star district title, and even beyond.
Tampa Bay Juniors Set For Junior Olympics
With three teams competing for Open division national titles and another competing for a Club championship, the Tampa Bay Juniors Volleyball program is feeling prepared for a big week of competition, starting this weekend.
Juniors director of coaches Randy Dagostino, who will lead the girls under-15 teams and the boys under-14 team in their open division competition, says the teams are ready to get back on the court in competitive play. The teams haven't done anything different to prepare, but the twice-daily practices have the teams ready for some opposition other than each other.
"There's really no different preparation," Dagostino said. "We're just trying to get the number of reps we feel are possible to get, and try to keep everybody healthy while working hard."
"The kids are starting to get tired of practicing, and they just want to get after it a little bit at a tournament. I know that's how I'm feeling too. You have to practice a lot, but at the same time you're interested in going to the event and seeing how you can do."
The Juniors under-16 squad, which includes Tribune All-County first-team members Lindsay Young and Maddie Martin, won the under-15 club division a year ago. The under-15s will play in the open division this year, after competing in the club division last year, and Dagostino says they aren't putting any expectations on the squad.
"There really are no expectations," Dagostino said. "This is a group that has been together for a couple of years now, and last year they weren't able to get into the open division, they tried hard but fell short, and this year they got in, and now we just want to see how we can fend for ourselves in the tougher division. Of course, the under-16s won the club division last year, so we think they can do pretty good."