Photo courtesy of Mateo Peral.
Hoover Soccer Club Regionals 2014
Alabama Soccer Association Division 1 U16 State Champions, Hoover Soccer Club’s Lady Phantoms ’98.
When Mateo Peral first joined the Hoover Soccer Club as administrator and director of coaching for girls’ competitive soccer in fall 2012, he could see he had the raw talent to help these players seize their first state title.
“We had a great run that fall during the State Cup but unfortunately we fell short and lost to Vestavia Hills Soccer Club,” he said. “So of course, while we were disappointed with that outcome, at the same time we knew if we got that far our first year together, we should be able to come back in 2013 and achieve a much higher goal.”
And that’s exactly what Hoover Soccer Club’s U16 team, better known as the Lady Phantoms, did.
Because of their second-place finish at the state cup, the team qualified to compete in the Southern Regional Tournament in Oklahoma City last summer. This was the first time ever a women’s team from Hoover Soccer Club had participated in a Division 1 regional event.
While the Lady Phantoms didn’t perform as they’d hoped, the ability to strengthen their skills alongside some of the best players in the country prepared them for what would transpire this past fall.
To reinforce the competitive skills building they began in Oklahoma, the team began playing in a regional league with competitive players from Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. The Lady Phantoms emerged from that league with a top place finish, which primed them to make another run at the final four, and to reappear at the state cup, this time prepared to win.
That path included an impressive 7-0 shutout over Mobile Soccer Club, and a rematch with Vestavia Hills Soccer Club, where Hoover allowed Vestavia just one unanswered goal before coming back to claim a victory. A grueling subsequent game against Huntsville yielded a scoreless result and in both teams advancing to the final four weekend in Montgomery.
With two players sick and several others injured, the Lady Phantoms entered final four weekend with more than a few liabilities.
“We went to Montgomery knowing we were entering a winner-take- all semi-final where we’d face the same Vestavia team that defeated us in 2012. But despite not being at full strength, they were very focused.”
At the end of the game, the Lady Phantoms defeated the defending state champions by a score of 3-1 to advance to the state championship game for the second consecutive year. There they faced the Auburn Soccer Club, and a challenging first half.
In the second half, the Lady Phantoms took a 3-0 lead to win the game and become 2013 State Champions.
“All the players displayed a tremendous effort despite some of them being injured, physically and emotionally exhausted and playing under circumstances they’ve never experienced before. The state championship was a great reward not only for that group of girls but also their parents who have been alongside them for so long and have supported that group through the great and difficult times.”
That victory will take the girls to Baton Rouge Louisiana this June to represent the state of Alabama at the 2014 Southern Regionals tournament.
To learn more about the Hoover Soccer Club, which offers both competitive and recreational league play for children U4 to U18, visit hooversoccerclub.com. Registration is active through Feb. 27.