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Preparing to win in thin air

One of Park City’s native daughters is back in a big way.

After playing a year of Division I collegiate soccer at the University of Portland, former Park City High School soccer star Elli Reed is now a member of U.S. Soccer’s U-20 (20-and-under) Women’s Soccer Team and back in town for a week-long camp.

"It’s fun," said Reed. "It’s weird staying a hotel here, though."

The team, which is made up mostly of college players, with a few talented high schoolers mixed in, has been participating in a series of camps since school ended a month ago. They have been preparing for a World Cup Qualifying tournament which will be held in Puebla, Mexico June 18-28.

Puebla, which is near Mexico City, sits just over 7,000 feet above sea level. In order to get the women acclimated to thin air, the team looked at a number of high altitude practice sites, and Park City made the final cut. The team has been treated to the unseasonably cool weather for the Park City practices, which can often add up to four hours per day.

"It’s not hot, so we’re excited, said U.S. Soccer U-20 Women’s team head coach Tony DiCicco who is also the former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach.

This means that Park City will not prepare them for the heat and humidity of Puebla, which will only get hotter as the days of the tournament progress but DiCicco, who has visited Park City in the past, said that he loves the area and the beauty it offers.

Reed said the adjustment to altitude for her has been fairly smooth, but it’s been difficult for her teammates who were still getting a bit winded earlier in the week.

Reed, now taller and stronger than in her prep days, has moved from her spot as an offensive scorer to outside back on defense. Reed said that the coach tried her at that spot a while ago and it seemed to be the right move. Reed is joined by some of the nation’s best college players coming from programs all over the country, including Penn State, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC), UCLA and others. DiCicco has been happy with his team’s performance throughout the last few camps and said that the team is looking prepared at this point.

"You always want to have more time to prepare, but I’m feeling good about Mexico," DiCicco said.

The team is fairly quick and plays a possession-style game and DiCicco says that he has the manpower, or woman power as the case may be, to deal with whatever the other countries throw at them.

"We will be able to deal with any challenges," DiCicco said. "What I want is to stick together, encourage each other and find ways to win."

According to U.S. Soccer, the Park City camp will also serve as an opportunity for DiCicco to whittle down his roster from 24 to 20 before making the trip to Mexico. This will allow them to hopefully qualify for the fourth FIFA world championship at this age level.

The championship tournament in Mexico will feature eight teams broken up into two groups. The U.S. will play Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and Mexico and then meet the winner between Canada, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Jamaica in the semifinals on June 25. The battle for third place will take place on June 28. The top free finishers will receive a berth in the 2008 U-20 Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Chile Nov. 19 through Dec. 7.

Parkites can get a taste of what the young American team will take with them to Mexico on Wednesday, June 11, when they face the Women’s Professional Soccer League’s (WPSL) Utah Spiders at 4 p.m. at Quinn’s Junction. Entrance is free and the public can see how Reed’s game has progressed since she started college, as well as watch some of America’s top collegiate players. The roster includes Stanford’s Kelley O’Hara and UNC’s Casey Noguiera among other top-ranked players.


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