The US Youth Soccer National Championship Series Eastern Regional Championships will take place from June 27-July 2 in Barboursville, WV. Leading up to the event, EDP will be profiling several of the qualified teams and looking at their journey to this point. The next team featured in the “Road to Regionals” series is the SDA Utica Blasters (NY-E), who earned their Regionals berth through their performance in the US Youth Soccer National League EDP North Atlantic Premier I Conference.
As one of the few teams in the US Youth Soccer National League EDP North Atlantic Premier I Conference based in the Syracuse-area, the SDA Utica Blasters spend a lot of time traveling together. Those trips, some of which lasted three-plus hours, helped the Blasters bond and grow as a team. More importantly, it helped them prepare mentally for games.
“Geographically, our location doesn’t allow us to get many high-level games without traveling several hours,” Head Coach Wayne Williams detailed. “We also have weather to battle, so when other teams are outside playing, we are indoors or traveling long distances for games. This makes it tough to learn from your experiences, but this year we have learned and the growth has been tremendous.”
The Blasters had a disappointing early exit in the State Cup and dropped their first game in the National League EDP Conference. The team then closed the regular season by winning 13 of their final 15 contests, including seven in a row to conclude league play. On the last day of the season, SDA Utica beat GPS New York 1-0 to clinch first place and its third US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships berth in the last four years.
“Every year, we set a goal of attending Regionals,” Williams said. “To see the commitment to working through the early tough times really stood out. It helped us achieve that goal.”
SDA Utica allowed just five goals in eight National League EDP Conference contests, and that defense is anchored by center backs Madison Wisheart and Allison Falvo, who both play every minute of the game. Offensively, the Blasters tied for the league lead with 17 goals scored, with Olivia Lindsay, Mary Muller and Maddie Luke providing that scoring punch.
They pushed through a competitive National League EDP Conference season and finished in first place. Williams thinks this sets the Blasters up well for Regionals, where they’ll face opponents who play very different styles. Just like they see every week in conference play.
“This team has been there three out of the last four years, but this time we’re more prepared than in years past,” he noted. “We’re excited to go out and have fun with the hopes of winning Regionals.”
And for SDA Utica, at least the travel to West Virginia won’t be an issue. It’s a little longer than usual. But, then again, they’re used to it.
Founded in 1999, Elite Development Program Soccer (EDP) is one of the largest organizers of youth soccer leagues and tournaments in the U.S. EDP operates youth leagues for boys and girls ages 9-19, conducts a Futures program for players ages 7-11, and operates U20/23 men’s and women’s leagues. EDP also runs over 20 tournaments each year. One of the major priorities of EDP’s leagues and tournaments is to enable soccer players to reach their full potential, with an emphasis on attending college. More than 3,500 teams participate in EDP’s leagues and more than 170,000 players compete in EDP tournaments annually. For more information on EDP, visit www.edpsoccer.com.