CLOSE
LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

In the last seven years, the Florida Fire Juniors have sent six girls teams from different age groups to the final four of the Florida Youth Soccer Association State Cup – one of the most prestigious youth soccer tournaments in Florida.

For the first time in that span, the organization is bringing home a state title, courtesy of this year’s U14 girls.

Coached by Chris Cashion, the Florida Fire Juniors U14 girls went 2-0-1 in the group stage, before beating Florida Rush 5-3 in the round of 16 and the Cape Coral Cyclones 2-0 in the state quarterfinals.

The girls traveled to Auburndale over the weekend for the Final Four, rallying from a 2-0 deficit late in the second half Saturday against the favored Sunrise Sting 2005 X1 team to tie the game and send it overtime. The girls eventually prevailed in penalty kicks, 4-2. That victory stood out in many ways, as the Sting came into the game undefeated and holding a 23-0 advantage over five previous state opponents. Trailing 2-0 with 18 minutes left, Cashion ramped up the pressure and the Fire cashed in with a pair of goals.

It might be easy to suffer a letdown after such an emotional match against a daunting opponent, but the girls maintained their focus in the championship match against the Gulf Coast Texans on Sunday. Elaina Loden scored a pair of goals, leading the Fire to a 2-0 victory.

“It was very difficult coming off such an emotional game, as Sunrise was the team to beat,” Cashion said in an email. “Our game plan changed a little with us being able to apply more pressure from the start and got an early amazing goal from Elaina Loden. Just before half, we had a few more chances and Elaina was able to put another one in the back of the net, putting us up 2-0 at half. With dominating most of the first half, I had to remind the girls of the day before when we were down 2-0 and came back. We needed to stay engaged throughout the whole game and not step off the gas pedal.”

The Florida Fire Juniors U14 girls roster consists of Edin Abougzir, Alexandra Blose, Adeline Brown, Madison Connaway, Morgan King, Cameron Levantini, Annika Lindquist, Elaina Loden, Ansley Mancini, Hana Markovic, Caprice Morely, Caitlyn Rogers, Briana Shimer, Molly Vickaryous and Madilyn Winn.

“There is so much I can say about this team and the season we’ve had,” Cashion said. “From finishing top-three in Florida State Premier League, competing in the first-ever Sunshine Conference, winning the Disney Showcase and two other tournaments and obviously our success in State Cup. But it’s not just about the results. It’s the fact that as I would get done with my older girls training, and I look over at the sideline and see my girls already doing their warm-ups. It’s the fact that some girls get to training early and run 2-3 laps, or get ladders and do speed/agility. It’s them picking up my equipment at 9 p.m. at night without me asking even though they have school the next day.

… This team has something special that most teams don’t have, and it’s that chemistry and work ethic go a long way. I couldn’t be more proud of a more deserving group of girls. For all Florida Fire teams, and even all Southwest Florida teams, we are a living testament to hard work paying off.”

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE