Local elite soccer team set for National Tournament

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 9:14 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Starting Sunday a local soccer squad gets the chance to impress on the national stage out in Colorado. The Roots U17 team is headed west this week to compete in the National Cup Finals, with 15 of the nation’s best teams in that same age group!

“This team started last season playing in the I-10 league.” says the Roots head coach Jona Hammond. “Which is a regional league, with teams from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana as well. They won that league and went down to compete in the US Club State Cup. We made it to the final game and ended up losing in a PK shootout. And that was how we qualified for nationals.”

That U17 Elite team made up of several of Hammond’s Arnold players, that group led by Cricket Lebdaoui, Josiah Dunlap, Zach Gunning and goal keeper Ryan Laymon. It also has three players from South Walton, Jonah Kirspel, Cooper Crum and Sander Richard. Other players include Ethan Jimenez of Mosley and Flint Haligas of Bay.

“You know this team has been together for a couple of years, training hard, working towards this.” coach Hammond said. “This is a goal we set last year. And so to finally accomplish it and get to Nationals, we’re very excited. They’re very familiar with each other, playing almost year round. And in the high school season, playing against each other. Yeah it’s a great group and they play really well together.”

And playing in a high level event says the coach, can do wonders for creating a better high school player.

“It’s helping them develop and grow as a player and a teammate. So when they get back to their high school, they can share that with the other players. They’ll have played at a much higher level. And so they can bring that knowledge that they have from playing in those games, and hopefully share that with their team. "

The team heading west Thursday and Friday, its first match in group play is Sunday against a team out of Oklahoma.

Those wanting to follow the team’s schedule and results can go to this website.


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