The Southern Soccer Association’s Chelsea 95 Elite team, which consists of several local players, qualified for the event by winning the Southeast regional championships last month in Baton Rouge, La.
“We’ve been together a long time and making it to nationals is a big accomplishment,” said former Hillgrove standout Necee Jennings, who played collegiately at Troy last season before transferring to Memphis. “We’re excited to play one last time before we’re all done with club soccer.”
For Chelsea to advance, it took a 1-0 win in double overtime over IMG Sports Academy (Fla.) in the regional championship. Carsen Taylor, who plays at Jacksonville State, accounted for the game-winning goal.
Chelsea will be one of four teams playing for the under-19 championship. They’re guaranteed at least three games during round-robin play Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The two most successful teams will play for the championship July 26.
Although Chelsea did win its region, a higher level of competition awaits.
They will go up against defending champion Team Chicago Academy, which has its top two players from a year ago returning. The 2012 national champion, VSA Heat Blue (Va.), and the 2012 runner-up Legends FC (Calif.), round out the final four.
“I think it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Chelsea coach Ben Parks said. “We’re going to have to minimize the mistakes. We’ve always had good goal-scorers, but, as a team, we’re going to have to defend first and minimize the mistakes. I’m not just talking about our defenders. Everybody is going to have to defend.”
Jennings tallied four goals in the regional and was named tournament MVP. It’s a continuation from her freshman season at Troy, in which she led the team with seven goals, four of which were game-winners.
Like Jennings, Wake Forest’s Caroline Wooten and Furman’s Carli Couch, are capable of producing goals. Rising Kennesaw State sophomore Shannon Driscoll will also contribute up front after missing the regional tournament.
Driscoll, a Woodstock native, scored two game-winning goals for Kennesaw State last fall, among her three total goals.
Chelsea will miss former Allatoona defender McKenzie Anderson, who is entering her freshman season at Armstrong Atlantic, but they will gain the services of former North Cobb standout and current Georgia College and State defender Rachel Overley, who was unavailable for regionals.
Overley appeared in 14 games for Georgia College in 2013, starting eight of them. While at North Cobb, she was a three-time offensive MVP and a two-time team captain.
Rachel Dymecki, a Harrison product and teammate of Jennings’ at Troy last year, is also part of the Chelsea team. Dymecki played nine games for the Trojans last year, primarily as a defender.
Erica Laurens, a Cumberland Christian graduate who also plays at Armstrong, will share goalkeeper duties with Carlie Hightower, who plays at Stetson.
“This is a carefully selected group of young ladies,” Parks said. “Alone, they are OK. Together, they are very special. We have 18 players who are playing in college.”