Getting an opportunity to test themselves against some international competition, a group of area girls soccer players gave an excellent account for itself and had a lot of fun in the process earlier this summer.
Visiting Trinidad in June, seven members from the Tewksbury Cheetah’s 15-and-younger squad along with seven other players from western New Jersey made the trip that included three games against three levels of competition, including the Trinidad & Tobago U-15 national team.
Organized by Cheetah’s Head Coach Earl Carter, who himself is former standout for the Trinidad & Tobago men’s national squad, with help from Bob Zito, the experience was well received by everyone.
“It was an amazing trip. I loved it so much,” said Katherine Beiler, a rising sophomore at North Hunterdon High School and a guest player from the Copa Football Club. “I really liked playing soccer there, and the experience of playing their national team was great.
“Getting close to the other girls was a lot of fun. The trainer (Carter) is from Trinidad, so we got to meet his family and friends, and we got to see a lot of different things. The culture down there is really cool. I liked it a lot.”
Michelle Ingarra, a rising sophomore at Voorhees and one of the Cheetahs who made the trip, echoed Beiler’s sentiments.
“It was so much fun. It was my first time playing out of the country, and I’d definitely like to do it again,” she said. “I really liked the diversity of the teams we played, and the girls were just phenomenal. They were just so nice, and we had a lot of fun together.”
For Carter, the trip was a chance to return to his homeland and showcase the talents of American youngsters, and that proved to be highly successful.
“The girls played extremely well on the trip, and outplayed all three opponents,” he said. “The leaders of the Trinidad Soccer Federation were so impressed by our level of play, and want to learn from the training we provide in New Jersey.”
The New Jersey team went against El Dorado, one of the top high school programs in the country and coasted 5-1, dropped a 2-1 verdict to the national team and earned a 4-2 victory over Jaloteh, one of the top club-level teams in Trinidad.
Laura Zito, a Tewksbury resident, a member of the Cheetahs and a rising sophomore at Oak Knoll where she has already earned post-season accolades in soccer, liked the big-time atmosphere of going against the national squad and found it a learning situation, too.
“It was a lot of fun, and it was very exciting playing their national team,” she said. “We played on a big field with a lot of people watching. It was a big field to start with, but being in a stadium with all those people made the environment even bigger.
“I think it helped our team because we’re have a lot of speed and we’re very good at connecting passes, and with a field that big and our speed, we were able to put together some passes for some breakaways. I learned a lot about aggressiveness, but nothing illegal.”
Brittani Marshall,, another rising sophomore at North Hunterdon and a member of the N.J. Dynamo Soccer Club, like her teammates, found the ability of the Trinidad players above their own but felt the New Jersey contingent performed better as a team.
“The (Trinidad) girls don’t have the opportunity to practice together a lot,” she said. “Singularly they were good players, but they just didn’t have the teamwork that we had because we have a chance to practice a lot more. I thought as single players they were better individually skilled. One thing I learned was I have to practice by myself more if I want to get better.”
Despite drawing players from eight different U-15 teams, the squad had no problems with playing a strong team game and doing so with a lot of cohesiveness.
“I (only) knew seven of the girls that went, but we just clicked right away,” Ingarra said, who lettered as a Voorhees freshman and plays forward. “I think that was because we all have such a good grasp of the game. Their national team was very good. They knew what they were doing. It was good to see how they communicated.”
Other area players making the trip were Katie Miller, who attends Voorhees and plays for the Cheetahs, and Isabella Robertozzi, a Tewksbury resident who attended Old Turnpike Middle School this past school year.
Sarah Caraballo of Hillsborough, Katie Sterbenz of Long Valley, Nicole Mantell of Middlesex and Megan McQuaide of Long Valley were the other Tewksbury Soccer Club players that traveled.
Completing the squad were Jackie Mains of Scotch Plains, Mary Coughlin of Basking Ridge, Kelsey Swintek of Watchung and Amy McQuade of Long Valley.
In its opening game against El Dorado, New Jersey got off to a quick start when Zito connected three minutes into the game, while Megan McQuade and Ingarra added first-half goals for a 3-0 lead. Ingarra notched her second goal and Mantell scored before El Dorado broke up the shutout late in the match.
Against the Trinidad & Tobago national team with 500 fans looking on in Marvin Lee Stadium at the Concaf Center for Excellence, New Jersey fell behind 1-0 six minutes into the match, tied in on a goal by Zito before the host team scored the final goal before halftime.
In the second half New Jersey had its opportunities as Marshall and Megan McQuade just missed on long attempts, while a late goal by Zito was waved off because of a hand-ball call.
Taking on Jabloteh in the finale, New Jersey fell behind 1-0, but Zito sandwiched a score by Ingarra with her third and fourth goals of the trip for 3-1 lead. After Jabloteh scored to get the margin to within a goal, Robertozzi added a late insurance tally for the final goal.
Trinidad holds own against national competition in Florida.
With the exception of a five-minute stretch in its final game, the Hunterdon BMW Tewksbury Soccer Academy’s Trinidad squad played to an even draw against top competition from around the country in the 13th annual Orange Classic International Girls Soccer Tournament last week in Weston, Fla.
The Trinidad U-17 girls opened the tournament with a 1-1 tie against the Ohio Galaxies, ranked ninth in Ohio. Cara Holmes headed home a Shannon Browne corner kick for the Tewksbury tally.
Over the next two days, the Trinidad played scoreless standoffs with the Herndon Arsenal, Virginia’s eighth-rated team, the Challenge Blitz, No. 11 in Texas. Jess Weeder got the shutouts in goal, while Katherine Bieler, Megan McQuaide and Melissa Marotta anchored the defense.
On the tournament’s final day, Tewksbury and the FC Alliance, the second-ranked team in Tennessee, played to a 1-1 tie through halftime, with Laura Zito scoring off an assist from Jackie Sumski. The Alliance, however, scored three goals in a five-minute stretch early in the second half for a 4-1 final.
“There were close to 200 college coaches at the tournament and more than 50 came to our games, so I feel the girls got excellent exposure to some very good schools,” said Trinidad Head Coach Earl Carter. “While I would have liked to win, we were not at full strength and the girls performed very well.”
The team picks up with additional tournament appearances beginning in February. Its schedule is posted on its website at www.tsatrinidad.org.
Nine members of the Tewksbury Soccer Academy team received post-season high school accolades this past fall, including two who gained all-state recognition, and all have been receiving attention from college coaches.
Zito of Tewksbury; Oak Knoll High School, claimed all-state honors as selected by the state coaches along with a North Jersey Top-20 in another coaches’ vote, while Julie Crankshaw of Lanoka Harbour and Lacey High, captured all-state recognition from the state’s coaches.
Bieler of Hampton and North Hunterdon, Shannon Browne of Hackettstown, Meaghan Kennedy of Pottersville and Voorhees, Jayne Pasternak of Short Hills and Kent Place, and Ally Tank of Long Valley and West Morris each gained first-team laurel on their respective all-division teams.
McQuaide of Long Valley and West Morris, garnered second-team all-division recognition, while Jackie Sumski of Forked River and Lacey received an Academic Achievement Award for classroom and athletic excellence.