Boca Raton, Fla. played host to a feast of soccer last week with the US Youth Soccer ODP girls Thanksgiving Interregional. There were 16 teams spread from the 1996-1999 age groups and divided into the four customary US Youth Soccer regions within each. The panoply of teams pushed the event into six days.
With four teams in each age bracket, there were competitive games and standout performances to spare. Here’s a look at a team and player of the tournament for each age bracket.
Region II: This age range was by far the most evenly spread of any in Boca Raton. Only one game ended with a higher margin of victory than one goal, a 2-0 victory by Region IV over Region III on the final day. Otherwise, three games were decided by one goal and the other two were draws. Region II escaped the fray with the least damage, winning twice and drawing once to take seven points and win the group by three with a plus-two goal differential. A 1-0 win over Region I on the final day sealed the deal for the team made up of players from the upper midwest.
Sarina Bolden, Region IV: This squad finished second in the 1996s with four points, and Bolden did her part in dragging the Pacific Coast team across the finish line. Her two goals tied her with Region II’s Kristelle Yewah for the tourney lead in this bracket, and they were both essentially worth a combined four points. The DeAnza Force midfielder struck late in Region IV’s opener to salvage a draw with Region II on an 85th minute tally. Finally, she scored the capper in a 2-0 win over Region III that sealed the group.
Region IV: No doubting that the West Coast 1997s were the most successful team of the tournament. They were the only team in Boca Raton to finish with a perfect 3-0-0 record, and their single goal surrendered was the best total of the event in any age range. A pair of 1-0 wins bookended a 3-1 outburst against the Atlantic Coast region to assure the team from the opposite coast the 1997 title by three points.
Jennifer Westendorf, Region III: The golden boot for the 1997s went to Westendorf, who put in three goals and led her Region III side to a second-place group finish with six points. The Alabama native scored the third goal in a 4-0 rout over Region I, and she was the driving force in a wild 3-2 win over Region II on the penultimate match day. She scored the first-half equalizer to make it 1-1 and then put in the eventual game-winner just before the restart for a 3-1 lead at halftime.
Region I: The 1998 bracket was a goal bonanza. There were 23 goals scored across the age range’s six games in Boca Raton, the most for any age group at the event. No team within that fiesta was more tuned up than the East Coast’s Region I, which scored nine to come away with the 1998 title with a 2-1-0 record. Region I scored big in a 3-1 win over Region III and a 4-2 win over Region II, and the only setback came in a 4-2 track meet against Region IV.
Jenna Bike, Region I: It’s no surprise the top scorer came from the group’s top scoring team. Bike tallied four goals, the second highest total at the entire event in any age range. The Trumbull, Conn. native plies her trade for Connecticut FC as a midfielder, and she was irrepressible in Florida. She opened her account by scoring the final two goals to seal Region I’s 3-1 win over Region III, and she was her side’s entire offensive output in its lone 4-2 loss.
Region IV: Last but not least, the youngest age range produced the highest scoring team of any age bracket in Boca Raton. That would be the Region IV 1999s, which scored a whopping 11 goals to become the most prolific attacking team at the ODP event. While the Region III 1997s didn’t lose a game, this side could stake a claim as the team of the tournament after scoring 11 goals, only surrendering two and winning its group by a point with a 2-0-1 record. A shocking 7-0 win over a Region I team that was otherwise competitive helped matters greatly.
Sophia Serafin, Region IV: The top 1999 side battled within itself for the tournament’s overall golden boot, which Serafin eventually won with an event-high five goals. Serafin went into the final game with a one-goal hold on the top scoring spot over teammate Theresa Boade, and Boade scored just before halftime in the finale to cut the Region III lead to 2-1 and draw level on four goals. But Serafin was up to the occasion. She scored the equalizer just after halftime to salvage a point and give her an even five goals to become the top scorer in Boca Raton.