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Soccer in New Albany is one step closer to making its mark in the sport after one of the town's traveling teams picked up a tournament title this past weekend.
New Albany resident Kevin Rowan has volunteered as a soccer coach for the past three years and is currently the president of the New Albany Soccer Association. Rowan hopes to increase interest in the sport, which is already one of the most popular in the United States.
“I became interested in the sport while watching my nieces play in a select league in Jackson,” Rowan explained. “I think this sport is something the community can benefit from, and I've learned a lot since I started coaching, especially these past six months.”
Rowan's team, the New Albany Firecrackers, picked up a tournament win last weekend in the Errea Tournament in Starkville. Competing against eight other teams in the area, the Firecrackers were a perfect 4-0, scoring 10 goals while only allowing three for their opponents.
“They were excited,” Rowan said. “They received gold medals, and we were able to watch as the runners-up from Meridian received their medals, then I had the opportunity to give each of my girls their medal while their names were called out. We also received the game ball, which I thought was neat.”
The Firecrackers are one of only two traveling teams currently based at the New Albany Sportsplex. An Under-10 team, the Firecrackers are made up of eight and nine year olds girls who are also participants in the Sportsplex's recreational league. The team was formed in November, and this last tournament was only the second they have played.
“We went from not winning any games in our first tournament in January to not losing any in this one,” Rowan said. “We're definitely improving.”
Rowan hopes to generate more interest for soccer in the community, as participation is gradually increasing at the Sportsplex.
“The big thing we need to get the soccer program more organized in the community is to hold teaching clinics so our coaches can be certified, as well as referee clinics,” Rowan explained of his plans for the soccer program. “That way we can properly teach the kids how to play rather than just having them run up and down the field kicking the ball.”
Rowan's Firecrackers will be in action June 6-7 for tryouts of the district tournament, and again June 19-21 in Meridian. The Meridian competition will be a unique experience for the girls, as it is an olympic-style tournament.