Local club puts Park City on the map
July 29, 2006
When the Park City-based Black Diamond U-15 soccer team first tried to sign up for the Southeast’s premier college showcase, the Score at the Shore Tournament, in Greensboro, N.C., officials were a little shocked. After all, the team wasn’t from a well-known soccer state like California or Texas and with a working knowledge of Utah not stretching much further than the Great Salt Lake and Steve Young, the thought of the state boasting a powerhouse soccer team seemed somewhat unlikely. But a few phone calls and stat checks later, the girls were accepted into the tournament.
Now, it looks like that’s the last time that time the Black Diamonds will have to introduce themselves. The girls plowed through the tournament held last weekend and won the U-15 championship, beating the Michigan state champions 4-0 in penalty kicks.
One person that was well aware of the Black Diamond’s potential was their coach, Richie Breza. Not only does he have national team players in Cloee Colohan and Lindsi Lisonbee, but five of the players on the team are top Salt Lake players that make the drive up to Park City play with the talent-laden team.
One of the goals of for the tournament is to play in front of college coaches and recruiters. An estimated 200-250 coaches attend the tournament every year. According to Breza, he already had 15 e-mails from college coaches waiting in his inbox when he returned to Park City inquiring about girls on the team.
The road to the tournament trophy included exposure to some of the best U-15 teams in the country. In bracket play, the girls played the New Jersey state champions, known as one of the strongest teams in the nation and beat them 2-1.
"It was possibly one of the best soccer games I’ve ever seen," Breza said. "That’s what got most of the colleges interested."
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Breza says that the challenge of that game was enormous, because the Black Diamond Club, from the U-15’s on down, try to follow a philosophy of always seeking the most talented teams and playing their best. Next up was the Texas D’Feeters ’91, whom Park City slipped by easily, 5-2. Rachel Ritter, only an incoming freshman, scored a free kick in that game and immediately college coaches began asking about the young player. In the semifinals, the girls were even more dominant, winning 7-2 against the Sachem Blazers of Long Island, N.Y. Breza said that the New York team had size and presence, but the Black Diamonds were just playing a good game. And then it was on to the championship game vs. the FC Michigan Gators, with the win that surprised officials, teams and coaches alike.
"I think people were falling over themselves that a Utah team could play," Breza said.
The win will allow the girls access into any tournament in the country.
"It put Park City and Black Diamond on the map," he added.
Park City already had a little bit of recognition, at least among the coaching ranks. All of them were familiar with University of Utah-bound Kelly Isleib, one out of top 10 college prospects in the country last year, as well as senior Elli Reed, another top prospect. Breza said those two names started many conversations.
"These girls have paved the way for other girls to get a look somewhere else," Breza said.
Breza said another thing that piqued coach’s interest was the total team effort of the Black Diamonds. He said that his national team players all played well, but the entire team played with skill and efficiency throughout the tournament. One clear advantage he noted was how much better conditioned his squad was, thanks to playing and competing at altitude year-round.
Besides exposing the girls to college coaches, Breza also was able to show them various colleges. They took time to tour the campuses and athletic facilities of both Duke and Wake Forest, and also allowed them to experience the feel of the surrounding college town of Chapel Hill.
"I want these kids to know that there’s more out there. There’s a lot more places soccer can get besides BYU and the U, regardless of how good their programs are." Breza said.
He has taken the team on other campus tours in the West, and is hopeful the college visits inspire the girls to try and earn scholarships that would enhance their lives athletically, academically and socially.
Now that the U-15s, the highest level team in the club, has won the Soccer at the Shore trophy, as well as a the state title for the premier level at their age group and has star players heading up the Canyon, Breza is confident that Park City will be welcome and well known at elite-level tournaments.
"When I started five years ago, people said that the best players would always drive down," Breza said. "I think a lot of that is coaching. Will Cummins, Matt Evans and myself have done a lot at younger ages, so it’s easy. We try to teach kids to play correctly and buy into it."
He also thinks that more and more kids will hear about Park City’s soccer reputation and want to be involved.
"It’s a trend coming," Breza said. "Park City’s got the best fields and facilities. The staff is skilled and its not 107 degrees in the summertime."
For more information on Black Diamond Soccer Club, visit http://www.blackdiamondsc.net.