Plum, Burrell soccer players get kicks across pond
Last year, Plum's Christine Tamburri and Nicolette Casarcia had hopes of being part of a team of American soccer players that would cross the Atlantic Ocean to face some of the world's top junior girls teams.
However, knee injuries scuttled the plans of both players, and they were not able to make the trip.
Upset and frustrated, but with a new sense of determination, they rehabbed their injuries.
Casarcia eventually made it back to the field at the end of Plum's 2013 fall high school season. Tamburri needed a little longer to recover, and she missed the entire season, which included a second straight trip to the WPIAL playoffs.
Both are at full health and on the cusp of the opportunity that eluded them 12 months ago.
Casarcia and Tamburri, along with Alyssa Proviano and Burrell's Dana McAlpine of Burrell, will represent the United States at a pair of European tournaments this month.
Stars 'N Stripes International Soccer Tours, based in Dallas, will field several teams for the European trip, and the local quartet will be on an under-17 squad that will face international competition in Sweden and Denmark.
“This is going to be an amazing trip and such a meaningful experience,” said Proviano, who missed a majority of her Plum sophomore season last fall with an ankle injury and a concussion.
The team, which also features a sizeable group from Texas and three players from Colorado, came together last week in Dallas for a first practice.
They then flew to Germany for a couple of days of training in advance of the tournament.
“We have to create that team bond and find out how each of us play the game,” Proviano said.
“We have to be able to mesh our games and also be able to adjust to our opponents' style of play.”
Team USA is scheduled to arrive in Gothenberg, Sweden, on Sunday, and games at the Gothia Cup begin Monday.
The Gothia Cup is billed as the world's largest youth soccer tournament. Last year's event in Sweden drew more than 37,000 players on 1,545 teams representing 75 nations.
The squad will not have much down time after the Gothia Cup, as it is on to Hjorring, Denmark, for the Dana Cup from July 21-26.
The tournament has been contested each year since 1982.
“The preparation for this trip has been to get my body in the top physical condition possible to do my best,” Tamburri said.
“It was a long road to get here, but now that it's here, I am enjoying every bit of it. It's great to be able to share this with Alyssa, Nicolette and Dana.”
Casarcia said that, like Tamburri, this month's trip to Europe was a big part of the motivation to get healthy.
“I want to come home a better soccer player, and this trip will definitely help me and everyone else do that,” Casarcia said.
“A week of training will definitely bring everyone closer together and put everything in place for successful tournaments.”
Last year's squad, with the help of Plum's Ali Gipson and Addie Jacobs, went a combined 6-2-3 against some of the top clubs in Europe at the Gothia Cup and the Dana Cup.
The team allowed only 13 goals in the 11 games over the course of the two tournaments.
“Talking to Ali and Addie from last year, they made those connections immediately that are so vital to make the team work as one,” Tamburri said. “I know that will be the same for us this year.”
Tamburri is a rising senior at Plum, while Proviano, Casarcia and McAlpine are rising juniors.
“I am excited to be with other people who love this sport as much as I do,” said McAlpine, who has played Cup soccer with Tamburri, Gipson and Jacobs.
“Ali and Addie were telling me all the great things about the trip, the tournaments and the great opportunity I would have. It made me really want to do it. They learned so many things from it, and that's what I want for my game.”
McAlpine helped Burrell finish 11-7 overall in 2013, and the Bucs were 8-6 (tied for fourth) in a competitive Section 2-AA.
“We want to have fun, but we know we pretty much have to eat, breathe and sleep soccer for about a month,” Proviano said.
“It's kind of like a business trip. We have a job to do and that is to win soccer games.”
For Tamburri and the U.S. team, it's about improving their games in the midst of a soccer celebration.
“We're going to be facing teams and players who probably won't speak the same language as us,” she said. “But we have that connection through our love of soccer. We speak the same language in that respect.”