That’s all the players from the North Atlanta Soccer Association’s ’12 Elite II girls team wanted, and now they’ll get that opportunity.
NASA ’12 Elite claimed the under-19 girls crown at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III championship in Edmond, Okla., on June 25 and moved on to the national championships, which will be held July 22-28 in Overland Park, Kan.
It’s the second region title and third trip to the national tournament in four years for the NASA team, which features a number of former high school players who hail from Cobb County. The squad won the U17 region title in 2011 and qualified for the national tournament in 2010 by finishing first in the National League.
With many of the players competing in college, coach Dave Smith said his group decided to team up one final time to get another shot at winning a national championship.
“They’re the ones that came to me because they’re all off in college now,” Smith said in a release from U.S. Soccer. “They said, ‘We want to get together. We want to make one more run at this.’ Of course, I love that. That’s why we came back to play U-19s. They wanted another chance at a national championship.”
The march to the national tournament wasn’t easy. NASA ’12 Elite opened up pool play with a 1-all draw against TBU Premier Girls ’93 (Fla.) before shutting out AHFC 94G (Texas) 2-0 and West Side Alliance (Okla.) 6-0.
NASA ’12 Elite and TBU Premier finished pool play with identical 2-0-1 records, setting up a rematch for the region championship.
The teams once again played to a 1-all tie at the end of regulation, and the score remained deadlocked following two overtime periods, forcing a penalty kick shootout.
Each team converted on its first penalty kick attempt, but former Walker goalkeeper Alyse Scott, now at Auburn, made three diving saves to give NASA ’12 Elite the championship.
“I know how to go about reading the individuals,” Scott said in the release. “I don’t just guess. I look at their hips. I see if they’re going to open up. I look at their eyes. I’ve had a lot of training with (penalty kicks).”
Scott isn’t the only local player on the roster.
Former Walker teammate Hannah Lones was also on the team, as was goalkeeper Michel Fernandez, a recent Walton graduate. So, too, were Abby Lutzenkirchen (Lassiter), Julia Nelson (Hillgrove), Marietta residents Elizabeth Johnson, Emily Sonnett and Emma Sonnett and Kennesaw’s Bria Washington.
Fernandez signed to play collegiately at Marquette in the fall, while Lutzenkirchen has already begun her career at Alabama. Nelson and Johnson are teammates at Kennesaw State, Emma Sonnett is at Georgia, Emily Sonnett plays for Virginia and Washington plays for Boston College.
Many of NASA Elite players have been playing together since they were 12 years old, and the camaraderie has bode well for the team, which finished third at the national championship in 2011.