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Local players to compete in national soccer games

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — This morning two soccer enthusiasts took to the field to play the best of the best as they competed in this year’s U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship.

Katie Burgess, 14, and Summer Wheatley, 13, both of South Point, had their first game at 8 a.m. at the Barboursville Soccer Field, one of two venues for one of the biggest sports events at the Tri-State.

This afternoon St. Joseph student Sunni Clyse of Ironton will play in her first match as a member of the WVSC Goal Girls.

The national soccer championship is bringing in 5,000 players in 282 teams from the ages of 12 to 19 years old from across the eastern part of the United States. The Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates between 15,000 and 20,000 will come to the Tri-State as part of the national games.

Teams this year will come from Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

This will be Clyse’s first entry into the national contest. She has played the sport since the age of 4.

“I really like it because it’s not basketball. You make up the plays as you are in the game. It is very aggressive and really fun,” she said. “I’m excited (about the tournament). It will be fun. We are just hoping to play well.”

For Burgess and Wheatley this will be the third time they’ve competed in national championship games as members of the WVSC Rowdies, a traveling team.

Yet that doesn’t mean either girl is blasé about the upcoming matches.

“Actually I think it is a honor to be able to play in the regionals, then play against teams from other states,” said Burgess, who got interested in soccer after watching her older brothers play the sport.

“I think it is different from other sports. It’s fast,” she said.

Days before the opening ceremony Burgess, who plays left midfield, was looking forward to participating in the opening ceremony extravaganza that concludes with an Olympic-style players parade. It’s an event she joined in twice when her team was in the nationals in Maine.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “You look out into the crowd and see thousands of people there and see all the different teams and the different age groups.”

Her teammate started in soccer when she was 8 and got involved playing on a traveling team.

Although Wheatley is also a championship competition veteran, she admits these games have a difference.

“It is a lot of pressure,” Wheatley, who plays sweeper, said. “We warm up like it is any other game, but you just know it is that much more important. I get butterflies, but once I am on the field I forget it. The first five minutes it gets to me then I am okay.”