POSTED: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 3:02 p.m.
The Colorado Storm North 02 Select team is playing in the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup in Florida. ( Courtesy Photo / Daily Camera )
Clint Shade had a feeling about his team from the very beginning.
And when you are coaching teenage girls, that inkling usually takes a little bit of time to develop.
But he knew his Colorado Storm North 02 Select team had "it." The immediate chemistry developed right out of the gate and now they are on the brink of something very special.
Shade's team is already in Florida — and are the only representative from Colorado — preparing for the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup against three other regional champs in the 15U division of the prestigious tournament.
"From Day One, they figured out how to work with each other and it has just always clicked for them," said Shade, whose 18-player roster has six girls from BoCo-area teams. "It's an unusual situation, and with girls it usually takes them a while to mesh together; but this group figured out what they needed to do and they have gone about it in the right way and it has taken them all the way to nationals."
To qualify for this week's ultimate prize, the Storm had to first maneuver through the West Regional tournament in Salt Lake City last month.
Playing in Pool C, the defensive minded Storm opened with a team from Cook Inlet in Alaska and after what Shade said was a lackluster practice leading up to the opener, lost 1-0 in a game they dominated.
But it proved to be just the eye opening experience they needed, and they rolled from there. They topped the pool with back-to-back victories against teams from Northern California and Utah to reach the quarterfinals.
"The loss kind of refocused them on the little things they were missing that had been so easy and they just skipped over in that game," said Shade, whose team will open with a team from Arkansas on Thursday at 6 a.m. Colorado time in Florida. "The loss actually helped."
The Storm swept through to the championship in Utah to face Barca Cantera from Southern California and with a 2-1 victory became just one of two non-SoCal teams of the 10 in the age group championship finals to move on to Florida.
"At this point we need to implement our game plan the best we can and hope that it is good enough to come out on top," said Shade of his teams Florida strategy. "It'll be interesting for sure.
"We've been preaching for the last two weeks about water intake and making sure they are hydrated before we even head down there. We expect to run forever, but the heat and humidity is something that is going to have to be dealt with."
If the Storm are going to have success in Florida, a lot of it will be based on the play of Legacy's Makayla Merlo. The Lightning sophomore-to-be is a playmaker from her midfield position and a lot of the team attack goes through her.
"She's my playmaker," Shade said. "She is going to be key in this tournament and if she has a good tournament, then we should do well."
Shade also singled out Holy Family's Lauren Clingman, one of his key central defenders that were instrumental in allowing just four goal in the seven games in Utah.
The other members of the team from the BoCo area are Sophie Dellinger (Fairview), Emily Mikan (Legacy), Emma O'Dell (Broomfield) and Haley Sommer (Fairview).
You can follow along with the team online at http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2017-National-Presidents-Cup/Schedule/15U-Girls/Division+1/
Jon Yunt: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/JonEYunt