EASTERN WAKE COUNTY — A U15 soccer team composed mostly of local players rose to the top in the U.S. Club Soccer National Cup, held July 19-21 in Aurora, Colo.
The Premier UK Elite ‘97 team outscored its opponents by a total of 17-5 as it claimed the Premier division title in the 12th installment of the national tournament.
“This is our biggest and best, by far,” said Nathan Bird, team coach and Premier UK Soccer regional director. “We’ve won local tournaments and qualifiers, but to travel to a national event and win, you’ve just got to take a step back and take it all in, really.”
The Premier UK team is essentially an all-star team formed with players from soccer organizations across the state that hold partnerships with Premier UK. The team consists of players from the East Wake Soccer Association, where Bird also serves as coaching director, the Iredell County Recreation Department and the Mebane Youth Soccer Association.
The conglomerate crew secured the national championship with a 6-0 battering of Bloomfield Soccer Club, avenging a 2-1 loss Bloomfield had issued in the second round of the tournament.
A 5-1 victory over FC Pittsburgh in round three punched the team’s ticket to the title game. The Premier UK team opened with a 5-2 win over Washington East Soccer Club.
Representing the EWSA on the title team were Christian Guzman (Bunn High School), Christopher Guzman (Bunn), Jackson Hawthorne (North Raleigh Christian Academy), Jesus Ibarra (East Wake High School), Derek Kaple (Corinth Holders High School), Ryan Killen (NRCA), Eric Loredo (East Wake), Ryan Mays (Knightdale High School), Ryan Patton (NRCA) and Eli Strong (NRCA).
They were joined by ICRD players Tyler Dacaret, Hunter Faust, Luke Gettys, Bailey Jackson, John Pike, Zachary Sexton and Austin Wilhelm, and MYSA player Jacob Mann.
The team went 3-0 in the National Cup southeast regional, held in Greensboro in late June, to qualify for the national event.
“For (Premier UK Soccer) to be two and a half years old and to accomplish this is phenomenal,” Bird said of the team’s feat.