The experience of playing at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships last summer was something Medina’s Olivia Sency and Sydney Leckie won’t forget.
After earning a second trip to nationals, which start Tuesday in Overland Park, Kan., the mindset is different for the Medina tandem and their Under-15 Ambassadors Football Club teammates.
This time, they have something to prove.
“I think last year we just got caught up in the moment,” Leckie said. “This year, we’re not just going there. We want to prove a point.”
That point has been proven by the Ambassadors over the last two months en route to winning their second consecutive OYSAN State Cup and Midwest Regional titles.
Last summer’s trip to the national tournament ended with a 1-1-1 record and third-place finish.
“It’s a great accomplishment going down to nationals again,” Sency said. “Last year, it was an exciting, new opportunity. This year, we’re more seasoned and know what’s at stake.
“Our coach (Kent Manson) has been telling us how great it would be to win, but we just want to get in the final and give ourselves a chance.”
Round-robin play begins Tuesday, when the Ambassadors will square off with Carlsbad Elite (Calif.), Tampa Bay United (Fla.) and Empire Revolution Syracuse (N.Y.) over four days before the national championship game Saturday night. The reigning champions of the age group, the MSC Coyotes (Md.), are in the other pool with squads from Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee.
The Ambassadors played Empire and Tampa Bay during the winter league and National League schedules. Both were hotly contested games.
How dominant have the Ambassadors been?
After outscoring opponents 15-1 in the State Cup, which ended with a 6-0 drubbing of the Ohio Strikers, they crushed the opposition by a combined 20-1 count at regionals in Des Moines. That title came via a 7-0 victory over the Kansas City United Rangers — a team the Ambassadors needed penalty kicks to beat for the 2012 crown.
“It’s definitely been a challenge, but we take every game like it’s the first time we’ve played that team,” Leckie said. “I think everyone was so organized (in the win over KCU Rangers). We defended together, attacked together and were solid throughout the whole game.”
It’s been a great postseason run for a club that finished fifth in the Blue Division of the National League.
“Our team always has been very strong, but this year, we just pulled together,” said Sency, who is one of four Ambassadors in the state Olympic Developmental Program and the only regional ODP player. “We’re even better this year, which I didn’t think was possible. We set a goal and we just keep fighting.”
Sency has been seeing time at outside forward and midfield, while Leckie, a center mid for the Bees, has moved to the backline.
Both are playing positions they don’t usually experience during the high school season, but have enjoyed the opportunity.
“It was hard because you always want to score, but I love to be a part of it,” said Sency, who provided a handful of key assists during the state and regional tournament runs. “After a while, you figure out that without every piece on the team, you can’t do what you want to do.”
Those feelings are mutual for Leckie.
“I like it, it’s a good change,” she said. “You get to be up with the attack and get the ball across the field … I actually like it.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.