The 13-year-old girls’ team was Haddonfield Soccer Club’s first state and regional champions
Members of Haddonfield Soccer Club’s 13-year-old girls’ team ceremoniously returned home July 30 with sirens and proclamations.
The team rode to Borough Hall in fire trucks as part of a parade celebrating its recent participation in an elite national tournament held in Aurora, Colo., in addition to its recent state and regional titles.
A team from Haddonfield Soccer Club had never won a state or regional championship as part of US Club Soccer before this year’s 13-year-old squad, according to Kevin Tighe, the team’s coach and club president. The nonprofit club was founded in 1975.
“It’s by far the most competitive team we’ve had in the club for quite some time,” Tighe said. “This is definitely a historic run.”
In the US Club Soccer National Cup, which was held July 20 to July 24, the team had two wins and a draw in three games during the group stage. A team from Minnesota had the same record and ended up advancing to the final on goal differential, Tighe said.
Tighe said the result was “disappointing” because the team was eliminated even though it did not lose a game. However, he said the tournament overall was a great experience for the girls.
“It really gave them a great sense of accomplishment,” Tighe added. “I think they know they had a great run.”
The team’s journey to Colorado really started in April when it entered the New Jersey Cup, and it nearly ended there too.
After advancing through several rounds of the single-elimination tournament, the Haddonfield team narrowly defeated Elizabeth 4–3 in the semifinal match. In the final, which was held June 10, the team scored a goal in the last minute to win 1–0 over Washington United, a club based in Washington Township.
“We put together a really good season,” said Tighe, who coaches the team alongside Jason Baxter and Greg Spellmeyer. “We just kept winning.”
After winning the state cup, the team advanced to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals where it played two other teams from New Jersey and a team from New York — all of which had won other tournaments to qualify.
Haddonfield Soccer Club won all three games, including a big 5–0 victory over Parsippany on July 2 to secure the regional championship.
Then, the coaches, players and families had to decide whether to devote the time and money to travel to the National Cup in Colorado.
“It was an endeavor,” Tighe said.
After the team accepted the invite, the team began training for the tournament on July 6 and also held various fundraising events to help pay for the trip.
“We prepared as best we could,” Tighe said. “We had a lot of big supporters in the community.”
Mayor Neal Rochford said during the July 30 celebration at Borough Hall that he visited one of the team’s training sessions prior to the cup.
“I didn’t realize what a big deal it was,” Rochford said before reading a proclamation honoring the team.
Sixteen of the team’s 19 players are either from or attend school in Haddonfield, and even the three out-of-towners are from nearby Cherry Hill, Haddon Township and Voorhees, Tighe said.
He said the “homegrown” or “organic” aspect of the team is unique compared with many other top-level clubs. Many of the premier academies in the club’s league recruit players who live hours away and charge high participation fees, Tighe said.
“A majority of them have been in the Haddonfield Soccer Club since they were 9 years old,” Tighe said of his team.
The plan is for this year’s 13-year-old team to continue playing together next season. In fact, the girls will return to practice Aug. 13 and are scheduled to compete in a tournament Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 in Hammonton.