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Historic road trip : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Historic road trip
PSC U14 team becomes first to advance to nationals

by Kristin Sharp


The evolution of the Panther Soccer Club has been steady in recent years. Now, the organization reaches uncharted territory this weekend with the U14 Orange girls' trip to the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup.

The girls' squad is the first PSC team to advance to nationals and will be participating in the Final Four in Greenville, S.C. beginning today, Thursday, and continuing through Sunday's championship game.

Oswego will play teams from Pennsylvania, Tennessee and southern California, with the top two teams meeting in Sunday's championship and the other two playing in a consolation game for a total of four games over the four-day stretch.

"For me, whether we win or lose, it doesn't matter," Udy said. "They're doing something that this club has never done. They're doing something this community has never seen. That's what I'm happy about; they're doing something special. I just want them to play well."

Although the team first came together under Udy's coaching guidance three years ago, this team's journey began this past fall with the 2013-14 season. Oswego won the Schaumburg SoccerFest championship in late August, and won its bracket in the Indianapolis College Showcase playing in the U15 division.

The team spent the winter in the high school league before breaking out this spring. The trip to Nationals started at the Illinois State Cup, falling to the No. 9-ranked team in double overtime in penalty kicks.

"Once we stopped our run at the state cup, we were entered into the President's Cup," Udy said. "We went into group play and played Crystal Lake and Lombard, and the next thing we know we're in the semifinal. We played an Eclipse team in the finals and won 3-0.

The team advanced to the Region II President's Cup in Overland Park, Kansas June 12-15. Oswego tied Kentucky (King Hammer Soccer Club) 1-1, but defeated Indiana 1-0 and won a 1-0 game against top-seeded Kansas to set a rematch with Kentucky in the finals.

"We didn't play very well against Kentucky," Udy said. "When we beat Kansas, Kentucky clapped because they were happy we took out the No. 1 team. ... We played so much better in the finals."

Zimbelmann once again found the net for Oswego, scoring both goals in a 2-0 shutout win over Kentucky to help lift the squad to the President's Cup championships.

"This is a byproduct of us bringing in additional players, making the most of what we have ourselves and training them at a level that's a little higher," Udy said. "This group is phenomenal."

Zimbelmann and Riley Parker are co-captains and help lead a roster of 18 players - all incoming freshmen at various schools in the area.

"We have a great team. It's so much fun," Zimbelmann said. "We've got a great defense. Riley is incredible. And Angeline (Lewis) and I make a good team up front."

Seven will attend Oswego while four others will go to Oswego East and others are bound for Batavia, Naperville North, Kaneland, Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley.

"I grow attached. I've never had daughters so they're kind of that for me," Udy said. "I've been very blessed with the Panthers. We have other trainers, but I tend to spend most of my time with the higher level teams. I'm fortunate enough to be asked to take this team. I do struggle sometimes to balance my full-time job and this."

Udy has spent the past three years with the U14 Orange team, but in addition coaches a U18 girls' team as well as a U12 boys' team.

But for this group, it's their last big tournament before parting ways at the high school level and likely seeing each other on opposing fields.

"It's going to be weird, but fun to see them on the other teams too," said Rachel Savaglio, who will be a freshman at Oswego East. "even though most of them are going to Oswego."

Regardless of their upcoming destinations, the players are excited for their historic weekend ahead.

"We're excited, and a little bit nervous," Lewis said. "It's going to be fun."

In addition to the PSC's stipend for the trip, Udy has received donations from the Illinois Women's Soccer League (IWSL) and Illinois Youth Soccer Association to help defray the costs. The Chicago Fire and the Kane County Cougars have donated items to be used for the pin exchange, a long held tradition in soccer.

"It's just been unbelievable," Udy said. "It brings a tear to my eye to see the support of the community. We didn't expect the IWSL to give us anything. We're probably close to $4,000 in donations. That's something that I didn't expect. It's been more than just winning a regional. It's been the community, Illinois and our leagues all being really supportive."

Oswego will return home on Sunday to complete the remainder of its summer schedule before taking a brief three-week break until the fall camps begin in mid-August.

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