If you need any proof how bright the future of Medina County soccer is, just look at the Cleveland Futbol Club’s under-14 girls squad.
The team is led by six local residents that will be future contributors for Medina and Wadsworth’s high school programs, and all have played integral roles in helping the club to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
“It’s been really exciting,” Medina resident Olivia Menssen said. “Every game we win, it’s a celebration. After a tie in the first game of the State Cup and not thinking we would get through it, to the regionals, it’s been fun.”
Menssen, fellow Medina residents Megan Sency, Janice Joyner and Halle Rogers and Wadsworth’s Emily Arellano and Victoria Baker helped Cleveland F.C. win the State Cup for the fourth straight year. The team, piloted by Brunswick varsity girls coach Ross Nicol, cruised through the Midwest Regional last month in Beavercreek.
It’s been quite a run for a team that a year ago failed to get out of pool play at the regional level. Cleveland F.C. will begin its quest for a national title Tuesday.
“The regionals were a lot of fun and we’re excited and pumped for nationals,” Joyner said. “We’ve worked really hard and deserved to win (at regionals).”
Cleveland F.C. overcame a scoreless draw to open the State Cup last month. The team went on to outscore its opponents 19-4 for state bragging rights and a regional berth.
From there, the squad won three hard-fought pool games, which included coming back from a two-goal deficit to beat Michigan’s Northville Rush behind a pair of goals from Joyner and one from Sency. Joyner netted the eventual game-winning goal in the 45th minute to help Cleveland F.C. advance to the semifinals.
After that, the team dominated Cincinnati United Premier in the semis and a 3-1 victory over Illinois’ Campton United, thanks to a first-half score from Baker.
“Each game was really hard,” Menssen said. “They were all close, but it always seemed like in the end we would find a way to pull through and were the stronger team.”
It was a satisfying accomplishment for a group that made an early exit at the regional the year before.
“Getting back to the regional and going further this year shows how much better we’ve gotten,” Joyner said. “We’ve been working together for a while and work really well together. We have to keep pushing. We work really hard in practice and we just need to bring it.”
The team will open national pool play in Boyds, Maryland, against Tophat 18 Gold out of Georgia. That will be followed by tilts with La Roca Premier (Utah) on Wednesday and Ponte Vedra (Florida) on Thursday. The semifinals are slated for Saturday, with the national title match at the Maryland Soccerplex on Sunday morning.
Sency plays forward for the team, while Arellano, Baker and Rogers are midfielders and Menssen and Joyner play on the backline. All the locals are incoming freshmen at their respective schools with the exception of Rogers, who was added to the club from Cleveland FC’s U-13 team prior to the tournament run.
“We just have a lot of heart,” Menssen said. “We don’t give up.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.