The Hornets girls' soccer team has won the top spot in the U14 division at the Guilford Soccerfest for the past two years. But this year they've entered a new age bracket, coach Anthony Castellon says they're going into the tournament this weekend as underdogs.
"We've got a mixed team," he says. "We just had our third practice together, and it's very hard to create chemistry in a handful of practices against premiere teams that have been practicing together for years. It's hard to compete with that."
The girls from Branford Soccer Club aren't like their opponents in the tournament -- all premiere teams who can pick and choose the best players from across the region through rigorous tryouts. The girls come from Branford. Some haven't started high school yet. The core of the team is made up of girls who have played on the club for a few years, but they haven't practiced as a group since they started high school.
"I've basically called them back to play for me in the division this year," Castellon says.
The Hornets will also have an age disadvantage. The team will play in the U15 division -- for girls 15 and under -- but many girls on the team are 13 or 14, Castellon says. Many of their opponents will have a year or two worth of an advantage.
"That one or two years can make a lot of difference," Castellon says. But he says his core -- high schoolers Emma Pottinger, Sarah Consolo, Abby Milroy, Alyssa Case and Kara Nardella -- is very strong.
"My objectives are to play well, whether we win or lose," he says. "If things go our way, we're gonna hold our own. But no matter what, it's a great group of girls, and we want them to really enjoy the tournament experience. It's a lot different than driving down the road for one game and then heading home!"
The Hornets face the Soccer Club of Guilford at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 30; Massachusetts's Chicopee Heat at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday; Middletown's Foundation Soccer Club at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, July 1; and the Northwest Rovers Football Club at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. All games are played at Long Hill Park in Guilford.
For more information on the Guilford Soccerfest tournament, visit their website. The tournament runs through the weekend, and includes a beach picnic featuring a DJ, beach volleyball and a raffle.