Sarah Patton and Grace Hurren won the title of national champions at the US Club Soccer’s National Premier League tournament.
For Moorestown residents Grace Hurren, 16, and Sarah Patton, 15, soccer isn’t a seasonal passion. The girls play for Moorestown High School and practice year-round with their team Players Development Academy South AJAX 2002 Girls based out of Westampton.
This July, the girls nabbed a national title as the winners of the US Club Soccer’s National Premier League tournament where 16 regional champions from across the country gathered to play in the National Premier Leagues finals. In the final championship game in Aurora, Colo., the team emerged victorious in a 5–0 game.
Both girls have played soccer since childhood. Patton grew up in Moorestown and was looking to get involved in a more competitive level of play outside of the school. She said her mother found out about PDA, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to to the promotion and development of youth soccer in New Jersey. She said she tried out and was eager to join the team.
Hurren started playing soccer at the age of 5. She said she grew up outside of Toronto and played recreation soccer until her family moved to Moorestown five years ago. When they came to the area, Hurren wanted to continue playing soccer and joined PDA.
Both girls said as compared to other styles of play, PDA is very technical. Hurren said other teams she’s competed with have approached the game with the mentality of “who wants it more” whereas on their PDA team, their coaches emphasize perfecting passes, having creative plays on the field and other more technical facets of the game.
“Since I’ve been on PDA, I’ve really grown technically and tactically,” Hurren said.
On the team, Patton plays the outside back position, and Hurren plays defensive midfielder. The team started its season in November and played its first showcase in December. With four new additions to the team, the team wasn’t quite “gelled together” yet, according to Patton.
During winter training, the team met once or twice a week and focused on preparing for the season ahead. Their league matches started in March, and the hard work paid off as the girls went undefeated in league games.
The girls’ only loss of the season came during the Jefferson Cup showcase. The girls lost their second game of the tournament, but the team used the sole loss as fuel for the fire for the rest of their games this year, Hurren said.
“We lost one game our entire season this year, but our coach even said to us once we took that loss, he could tell we weren’t going to lose again that entire season because he could tell we hated it,” Hurren said. “It was terrible for us. I think what’s great about our team is even if we have a low, we snap back.”
Patton said they took that passion to win to the nationals in Aurora. This marked the team’s third year at nationals, and in the year prior, the team made it to the semifinals. They lost in overtime, and this year, when they returned, they felt like they had something to prove, Hurren said.
“We knew that we just had to win for our team’s reputation,” Hurren said. “I think it was really important to us that we won this tournament just to settle it.”
In the first half of the final game against GPS Soccer team from Massachusetts, the team only scored one goal. Patton said it was a stressful situation because they knew they weren’t playing to their fullest potential, but in the second half, they “turned it on” and scored four additional goals.
“Even though we won all of our other games and everything, having that title was just important,” Patton said. “We finally had it.”