By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
The Tupelo Futbol Club ’98 Girls reached the U.S. Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championships last year after winning a state title. This time, they’d like to stick around a little longer.
The TFC ‘98 team left Mississippi on Wednesday and opens play in Edmond, Okla., on Friday afternoon.
“We have girls on our team from all over northeast Mississippi – Tupelo, Saltillo, Amory, Oxford, Lafayette, Starkville and TCPS,” said Diane Rulewicz, who’s in her first season as head coach.
“Last year at the regionals, this team didn’t get out of the first round,” Rulewicz said. “I’m expecting them to maybe get past the second round.”
It won’t be easy. Her team is in a pool with the state champions of Oklahoma, South Carolina and north Texas. “It’s a tough group,” Rulewicz said.
Pool play continues through Sunday, with the top teams advancing to Monday’s quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals are June 26-27.
The TFC ’98 squad is on a roll, having won five tournaments in a row at the end of their season and all four of their games – by an 11-2 margin – at the recent state championship tournament in Meridian.
They’ve outscored their opponents 57-29 in 19 games with 12 wins and two draws.
“A lot of teams play what I call ‘kick and run’ soccer but we play a lot of possession soccer,” Rulewicz said. “We prefer to attack together as a group.”
Regional winners will earn a berth in the US Youth Soccer National Championships, scheduled for July in Kansas.
The first team from Starkville to win a state title, the SSA Bulldogs U16 boys team, is also making the journey to Edmond. The Bulldogs defeated Tupelo in a three-match series at Meridian, winning the State Cup 3-0 and 2-0 after a 1-0 loss.
“The defensive effort from our team was exceptional,” coach Erik Mylroie said. “We played 270 minutes and only gave up one goal. That is an impressive accomplishment.”
The Bulldogs are in a pool with state champions from Oklahoma, Tennessee and Louisiana and will open play Friday morning.
TUPELO FUTBOL CLUB ’98 GIRLS
Lauren Kate Carter, Katie Darnell,
Claire Davis, Camryn
Dawkins, Mary Day, Taylor
Fikes, Claire Golding, Madeline
Harrison, Alley Houghton,
Maddy Houghton, Jenny Kastner,
Nikkie Kesler, Cailee
Helen McClain, Jordyn Repka,
Malarie Scott, Zoe Scruggs,
Audrey Wilson, Liza Wise.
COACH: Diane Rulewicz.
STARKVILLE SOCCER ASSOCIATION ‘97 BOYS
Timothy Benton, Coleman
Bergstrom, Arman Borazjani,
D’Antae Bush, Connor Dunne,
Rene Effenberger, Michael
Godley, Caleb Gwaltney, Luke
Josey, Christian Kingery,
Daniel Luck, Ben Mackin,
Aaron Meek, Rylan Moore,
Alex Ross, Juan Salazar,
Roger Shilling, Michael Sullivan,
Bryan Vogel, Cameron
COACHES: Erik Mylroie, Aaron Smyser.