Since joining the nationally ranked Clearwater Chargers less than a year ago, Alyson Brady has taken her soccer abilities to a new level.
Brady showcases that talent as a starting midfielder on Springstead's girls varsity team that just wrapped up a runner-up finish in its district. Though as a side gig, she and five of her friends entered the annual Kick It! 3v3 World Championship Tournament this month.
Recruiting the help of Charger teammates Katherine Pedersen, Dana Larocque, Jensen Eifert, Tanya Bawkins and Jenna Payne, the group called themselves the Tampa Girls and was able to rise to the level of competition in the Under-14 Competitive Division.
"A lot of the fathers that have girls on the Chargers were interested in this tournament as soon as the subject came up," Will Brady, Alyson's father, said. "After that, it was just a matter of getting a group together."
According to the Kick It! registration site, The Tampa Girls, playing out of Spring Hill, were the only Florida-based team in the entire 14-team division. The local team was in Pool A along with squads from Connecticut, Tennessee and two teams from Illinois.
The tournament rules are somewhat offbeat from the usual soccer style. Playing in a pickup basketball-type format, the field is smaller, and only three players from each team are on the field at a time. The nets are much smaller, and there are no goalkeepers.
"The style really focuses on certain parts of soccer," Alyson said. "To get far, you need to bond with your team and develop good foot skills and quick passing."
With her parents looking on, Alyson and her teammates soared through the competition, surprising many along the way.
The girls lost only two games in the entire tournament. In Pool A competition, the girls lost their third game Saturday to Triple Threat (Cordova, Tenn.) 4-3. Things looked bleak in pool play, but after Triple Threat fell to Titans Select (Glenview, Ill.), the Tampa Girls were back in business.
Tampa broke the tie with those two teams by hammering the Titans 9-3. The victory made Brady's squad the top seed in the playoff bracket. The Girls decimated the Flip Flops (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) 11-1 to move on to the semifinals. The Girls second loss occurred when the team fell to the eighth-ranked team in the country, Neenah Nutmeg (Neenah, Wis.), 4-3.
The Tampa Girls bounced back in the consolation final against The Crew (Anderson, S.C.). Playing highly motivated, Brady and company took third place easily with a 5-2 victory.
"This tournament included some of the best teams in the whole country," Alyson said. "It's exciting to meet good players from all over."
In the end, it looks as if Alyson has placed herself among some of the elite youth players in the country. And though she starts at midfielder for a U-15 Chargers club that is ranked 26th in the nation and third in the state by USARank.com, she said playing in the Kick It! 3v3 was a blast.
"There was a lot more running involved than normal soccer (at Kick It!)," Alyson said, "but I had a ton of fun."
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