Park City club soccer to vie for national title
July 11, 2007
Rachael Pack could spend her summer evenings like many teenagers at the pool, going out with friends, or at least earning pocket money at an air-conditioned clothing store. No one forced the 16-year-old Park City High School junior to sweat in the sun two hours a day, three days a week as the Park City Black Diamond Soccer Club prepared for the 2007 U.S. Club Soccer U-16 Regional Championship. Nor did anyone tell the athlete to put in hours of extra work in physical conditioning, ployometrics and ball handling.
Sure, it takes up a lot of time in our summer," Pack admitted. "But in the end, there’s no place I’d rather be."
To Pack, an aggressive center midfielder, the sacrifice was well worth the reward as she and her teammates won the regional championship and will head to North Carolina for the 2007 National Cup Soccer Finals July 28-31. The No. 29-ranked Black Diamond team beat the No. 4-ranked Capital Athletic Boca Juniors of Sacramento, Calif. who were also last year’s national champion. Black Diamond will face the winners of seven other regions from across the United States in front of 250 college scouts, including recruiters from Division I schools.
"It’s a great opportunity for the girls," said coach Ritchie Breza, who has developed the girls’ play for five years. "It’s a good chance to showcase their talent," he said. The national tournament will run this year in conjunction with the popular North Carolina invitational, Score at the Shore. Despite missing a chance to compete at nationals last year, the Black Diamond team won the invite, garnering attention from schools like Purdue, Wake Forest and Pepperdine Universities.
In the team’s first attempt to vie for the national crown, Brez is confident in his prediction.
"We’re going to play against some of the toughest teams, but I think we’ll win it," he said.
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A win for the girls would mark the first time a Utah team has won the national title in the U-16 division.
Pack trusts her coach’s instincts.
"We have a very good chance," she said. "And Coach Ritchie has been with us since we were 11 years old, so he knows best."
Of the19 girls on the Black Diamond roster, 11 have played on the team for the past five years a rarity in elite club sports, says team captain and goalie, Cassie Palmacci.
"You’ll often not have the same roster two years in a row," Palmacci said. "For us to stay together so long is really special. We’re like a big family," she said.
After high school, most of the players plan to continue at the collegiate level, a goal Breza supports.
"That’s the end result, and it’s what Coach Ritchie really pushes for," Pack said. "He wants to see us all play for college, and he actively tries to get us that collegiate recognition."
The girls will have their chance to impress recruiters from July 28-31 at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex in Greensboro, North Carolina. Results will be available by Aug. 1 at http://www.usclubsoccer.com