Chasing a title

Coppa Swarm prepare for top-notch competition at Nationals, create GoFundMe to cover costs

The Philadelphia Soccer Club Coppa Swarm pose with their plaque after winning the US Youth Eastern Regional Championship. The team will head to Texas for Nationals from July 23 to 29. PHOTO COURTESY OF KARLA SCHACHER.

By Melissa Komar

The Philadelphia Soccer Club Coppa Swarm U14 girls are fresh off a win at the US Youth Eastern Regional Championship and are headed to the US Youth Soccer National Championship, but first, they’ll need an assist.

Taking into account the travel and lodging costs for 17 girls to head to Frisco, Texas, for the tournament from July 23 to 29, first-year head coach Karla Schacher and team founder and assistant coach Charlie Ritter created a GoFundMe fundraiser.

Based at 10402 Decatur Road, the team is made up of players who hail from the River Wards to Fox Chase, from the Far Northeast to Roxborough, according to Ritter, who resides in Fox Chase and has coached for more than 20 years.

“I can’t be more proud. These girls have that Philadelphia mentality that they bring to the game,” said Ritter, who created the team when most of the players were 7. “Twelve of the 17 girls live within the inner-city of Philadelphia. For a city team to have this much success today in the game of soccer with the bigger, suburban clubs that have a lot of money, a lot more players in the organizations, and we’re out there competing against them and regularly, we are coming out on the winning end.”

This season alone, the team won regionals and the EPYSA U14 NCS State Cup, adding to the three state titles the team won in previous seasons.

According to Schacher, both of these wins, coupled with other wins and top-notch performances at other prestigious tournaments, leads to the team accumulating points in the U.S. Youth ranking system, and, earning arguably its most prestigious accolade yet: being ranked number one in the country.

“In order to get ranked number one in the country, you have to attend elite tournaments and place or do very well in them. The team has managed to get into the top bracket at every major tournament there was around this year,” she said. “That’s a big accomplishment in itself, to go into the top brackets and then finish first or second in every tournament.”

Schacher points to losses being just as important as the team’s success in making it to Nationals.

“The team made it to the final in the Jefferson Cup in March, although they had made it in years prior, that was a big accomplishment because it’s always really good competition,” said Schacher, a former Canadian National Team player. “We ended up finishing second to a really good team from South Carolina and I think when you end up losing a game like that in the final, it just pushes you to train and play that much harder. The Jefferson Cup was a time when our team was disappointed they didn’t win and it drove them the rest of the season to get that much better so we could go on to win the Regional Championship and go to Nationals.”

Ritter’s daughter, Chelsea, 13, started playing soccer when she was 4 years old and plays outside left midfielder.

For Chelsea, the road leading to Nationals has been as exciting as going to the actual tournament.

“Winning Regionals was a great experience because last time we lost in the semi-finals to Team Arlington and we had to versus them again this year and we beat them,” she said. “Winning was a dream come true. It was the best day ever. We were screaming, throwing water at each other, and jumping up and down.”

Going to Nationals is another chance to hang out with her teammates.

“I’m really looking forward to playing with my teammates and having a great time and getting closer to my teammates,” she said. “And, we’re just going to try to bring home the championship.”

Fishtown native Julia Thomson, 13, joined the Swarm when she was 9 years old and plays at outside and central defender.

“We’ve been training so hard all season and it was great to feel all our hard work paid off,” she said about winning Regionals.

Playing and winning Regionals, where it was 95-plus degrees each day during the five-day tournament, was the perfect preparation for Texas.

Cold towels and plenty of fluids were permanent staples on the pitch.

“We have to get ready for super-tough competition. And, we just have to keep playing as a team and get ready for the heat,” Julia said. “I’m looking forward to playing and being part of this experience with my team. And, hopefully we can win.”

Bridesburg native Ellen Stratz is the goalie for the Swarm and couldn’t be more happy to cap her first season with the team with a trip to Nationals.

“This is my first season with the team and it was a great experience because I’m already going to Nationals my first year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to just being there with the girls and playing and enjoying the experience.”

The GoFundMe will stay active after Nationals to cover costs associated with future travel for the team, according to Ritter.

“Besides going to the National Championship, the team has qualified to play in a prestigious league called the U.S. Youth Soccer National League,” he said. “By participating in that league, we’ll go to Las Vegas in December and North Carolina in March. So, we’ll have the GoFundMe up on a consistent basis.”

Traveling to tournaments around the country is all about finding national-level competition for the girls.

And, to prepare the girls for the next level: college.

“We’re moving into those showcase events where our girls are getting looked at by colleges for recruitment purposes,” Ritter said. “This team deserves a lot of recognition for what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

For Schacher, regardless of the outcome at Nationals, the girls’ dedication is something to be admired.

“If you’re a kid, and you play a sport you love, you’re working your hardest to become the best soccer player and best person you can become, and that’s what I see in this team. They’re always positive, they don’t leave anyone out. And, they have this one goal in mind: to make it to Nationals,” she said. “There couldn’t be a better group of girls more deserving of a little extra help here and there. They’re a tenacious group of girls who never give up. We might not play the nicest, cleanest soccer people watch, but they always battle to the very end.”

Philadelphia Soccer Club Coppa Swarm will hold a soccer skills clinic and National Championship send-off party on Wednesday, July 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Agusta Soccer Fields 1 and 2, 10402 Decatur Road. Clinic is open to ages 4 to 10 and check-in is at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $30 in advance and $40 at the event and includes clinic, T-shirt, family activities and games. The clinic will be run by coaching staff and guest trainers. All proceeds will cover travel costs for players and coaches. To confirm spot, email Megan at mgthomson13@hotmail.com or reply to the Facebook event at PSC COPPA Swarm Fundraising. To donate to the team’s GoFundMe, visit www.gofundme.com/philly-soccer-u14-girlscoppa-swarm.