The Meridian Star
Girls will be girls, especially middle school girls, but that doesn't mean they don't know benefit of hard work.
The Premier Futbol Club 02 Girls U12 team exemplifies such, working its way through a travel tournaments schedule to earn a national ranking.
"It means a lot because we're top 10 in the country and it just lets us know that we're good," Anna Claire Nance said.
PFC opened the fall tournament season at No. 16 and have climbed the latter to No. 5 on SoccerInCollege.com's U12 Girls USA Rankings as of Monday.
This season, the girls have a new coach in Leon Powell. He had been coaching a boys team and was worried about the switch, but for no reason apparently.
"When [PFC Manager] Daniel [Thomspon] said he had a girls team for me to coach, I was like 'I'm not good at girls,'" Powell said. "I was thinking it was going to be a rough life, but when I came over on the first day of practice, I was like, 'Whoa, these girls are good.'"
Powell quickly learned these girls aren't just playing kicks, which completely changed his mindset about switching teams and realized the opportunity he had to be part of something big.
"It's not girls playing because of their parents or because of the social life. That's good, it makes my job easier," Powell said.
"They're girls, so you know they are going to be talkative a lot, so sometimes I have to get off on them for that, but they are a good set of girls. They work hard, most of them want to play at the next level."
The next level isn't some of these 11-year-olds only goal. Some have thought long term and see dominating the U12 national scene as just the first step.
"I want to play for [University of] North Carolina," Riley Thompson said, "Because most of the people on the US team played for North Carolina in college."
Thompson isn't alone.
"I want to go as far as I can," Molly Moore said. "Past high school, college, hopefully past that."
The team has been together since the foundation of PFC two years ago, but no one was new to soccer when they signed up, most having played since the age of 4.
"It makes it like family because we've all played together for so long," Moore said.
They don't see an end in sight, nor should they Powell said.
He said when he first took over the team, he was consistently amazed by the level of talent each and very girl has and believes they all have higher level soccer futures if they keep the tempo going.
The work the team has put in this season as shows in the results and gives promise to a good future. PFC has yet to lose a match, only drawing to a tie in regulation and winning on penalty kicks in the championship match at Southern Crossroads tournament in Jackson on Oct. 27.
"That tournament was pretty much our hardest tournament," Powell said. "We had to fight for it."
It was the first time the team faced any sort of adversity, but did so with stride. Powell said it was a new situation for all as he didn't really know what to say to the girls to lift the mood.
"Everybody was down, I was like, 'What should I do?' because I, myself, had been in plenty of shutouts, but not with a girls' team," Powell said. "I asked my manager to pass me a ball, when he gave me that ball, I put it in front of them and had everybody put their foot on it. They did and I said, 'You see that? That's a team right here.'"
He knew they were capable of pulling out the win because they'd spent time taking shots at practice, but it was his goalie Katelynn Gibson really shined, saving two shots.
With one tournament left on the fall schedule, they'll be looking for a complete sweep of championship titles for the season at the Adidas Germantown Girls Invitational in Germantown, Tenn. on November 23 and 24.
"I've heard it's going to be a good tournament," Powell said. "I'm trying to prepare the girls for it because they are use to just walking over every girls team and winning."