Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Sawtooth Premier meets the Holland Cup challenge

Brings home two trophies from Europe


Posing in Europe, the Sawtooth United U-17 Premier team display its trophies and ribbons from July?s Holland Cup. Players are (back row from left) Kaitlin Gasenica, Brianna Hull-Mullins, Erin McQueen, Calley Brown, Krista Detwiler, Danielle Smith, Nikki Schulz, coach Greg Gvozdas, Laura Speck, Ashley Mardian, Cassidy Doucette, Tara Cappel, Jessi Pieschl, Ellen Ard and Gina Thomas. In front, from left, are Kacie Femling, Sara Berman, Ireland King, Margii Driscoll, Lexie Praggastis and Gussi Ochi. Courtesy photo

By JAMES CORDES

Express Staff Correspondent

In the end, the Sawtooth United Premier soccer team found that the fields in Europe weren?t all that dif-ferent from those in the Wood River Valley.

The U-17 Sawtooth United Premier girls? team traveled abroad for 10 days in July and enjoyed success, close games, and physical play. The ultimate taste of success was returning to the states with two trophies?a second place trophy and a sportsman-ship honor.


Competing in the prestigious Holland Cup, Sawtooth Premier went 1-3-1, but made it to the champion-ship game of the ?Challenge Cup? of the consolation bracket by beating Boras AIK (Sweden) 1-0, with a goal by Margii Driscoll.

In the Challenge Cup finals, the girls faced Innerschweizerischer Fussball (Switzerland), a team they had lost to 1-0 earlier in the tourna-ment.

Sawtooth Premier went up 1-0 in the first half with another goal by Driscoll (3 goals in the tournament, only goal scorer for Sawtooth Premier). However, Switzerland bounced back in the second half with two goals, one on a penalty kick with five minutes remaining in the game.

The final score was Switzerland 2, Sawtooth Premier 1.

Regardless of the outcome, the coaches, led by Wood River High School varsity girls? and boys? soccer coaches Greg Gvozdas and Farrell Swain, with assistants Laura Gvozdas and Rob Butterfield, were more than pleased with the success of the ten-day trip and the performance of the team.

?All of the teams we played were certainly more physical than any other teams the girls have faced,? coach Greg Gvozdas said. ?But the girls really stepped up and battled back. We played all our games except one on Astroturf, which it a lot faster. The girls adapted well. They certainly had a lot of turf burns by the end of it.?

Leading up to the ?Challenge Cup? bracket, the Sawtooth Premier girls faced tough competition and played some close games.

In the first game of the tourna-ment, the team lost to HV04 (Den-mark), 3-1. Driscoll scored on an assist from Kaitlin Gasenica. The second game of the tourney was the 1-0 loss to Switzerland and the third game was a physical 1-0 loss to Mis-sion Viejo Elite (California).

?The girls developed a rivalry with the California team early after watching them play pretty dirty in a game. Plus, they were staying two rooms down from us in the school we were staying in,? coach Laura Gvozdas said.

Mission Viejo Elite ended up placing third in the Holland Cup.

Sawtooth Premier also tied the German team, 1-1, which was the team Sawtooth United beat out for the ?Challenge Cup? berth on a goals-against edge.

The sportsmanship honor the team received was the ?Fair Play? Award, which was accepted by team captain Lexie Praggastis. Praggastis ended up missing a game-and-a-half with knee problems, but bounced back to play the last three games of the tournament.

Goalkeeper Jessi Pieschl also had a strong tournament, allowing only nine goals in six games.

?Jessi was just phenomenal for us,? Laura Gvozdas said. ?She had really bad knee tendinitis before we left and her knees got really scraped up from diving on the turf, but she sucked up the pain and played all of our games.?

The coaches were also quick to give praise to their steady defense, including Praggastis, Gina Thomas, and Danielle Smith.

Upon returning to the states, the 20-girl team has continued to hold captain?s practices to keep their touches and conditioning sharp. The coaches hope this experience will help led to even more competitive soccer here in the valley.

?The high quality of our play on the trip reflects the impact that the Sawtooth United program has had on soccer in this valley as well as the success of the high school programs.? Laura Gvozdas said.

Tryouts for the 2005 Sawtooth United Premier team are tentatively scheduled for early November, after completion of the fall prep soccer season. More information will be available in late October.




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