Tophat earned its spot among the four teams in the U14 division of the nationals by winning the Region III Southern tournament in Edmonds, Okla. last month.
“The girls have worked really hard in the offseason to get there,” 17 Gold coach Troy Garner said. “It’s a really unique opportunity for the girls to be rewarded for their hard work. We only have four teams in that age group in the country that can go, so it’s a great accomplishment and we’re just hoping to get there and win it.”
In the preliminary round, Tophat will play YMS Explosion 98 of Yardley, Penn. July 23, NSA Rockets of Naperville, Ill. July 24 and Eastside FC 98 Red of Preston, Wash. July 26.
The top two teams from the preliminaries will play in the championship game July 27.
Tophat 17 Gold went 2-0-1 in pool play at the Region III tournament, then defeated OFC 99 of Oklahoma 2-1 in the semifinals and Tulsa Blitz 98 White 1-0 in the finals.
Emma Kurtz scored on an assist by Reagan Glisson in the final minute of the championship game to provide all the scoring 17 Gold would need.
Glisson, a rising freshman at Greater Atlanta Christian, scored five goals to lead the team in scoring.
Garner said that he is most impressed by how everyone on the 17 Gold roster has played an important role in the team’s drive to the national tournament.
“I feel like the key to our success is the balance of the team,” Garner said. “We’ve got very, very good defenders, we’ve got very, very good midfielders, we’ve got very, very good forwards. It’s real balanced. It’s not like just one player or a group of players – it’s everybody. We’re strong as a unit.
“The girls are mentally tough, they’re physically tough. So, when it comes down to those championship matches, we’re prepared for that.
“The girls have been through a lot this year, playing in big-time tournaments, where the results matter. So, I feel like they’re battling and that’s why I feel like they’ll do well at nationals, because they have been in these situations before and they have always done really well.”
The team features a number of local standouts who will be moving up to the high school level as rising freshmen next season.
Jessica Haidet and Avery Queller (Pace), twin sisters Lexi Orman and Caroline Orman (St. Pius X), Sarah Elizabeth Matthews (Lovett) and Kayla Bruster (Woodward) are among the key players.
As 17 Gold heads into the tournament, Garner said he is optimistic about his team’s prospects of bringing home the championship trophy.
“I feel really good about our chances,” Garner said. “Whenever you go into a tournament and you have all these quality teams like that tournament has, you get the girls to perform at the top of their ability.
“We’re hoping to get that little bit of luck that we need and I feel like the girls are playing really, really well right now – individually and collectively as a unit. So, I feel like we’re in good shape going into the tournament.”