The Georgia State Cup begins today on the grounds of Georgia Southern University, set to determine champions for boys and girls sides over seven age divisions today and Sunday . And in addition to crowning the best teams in the state, it will also highlight some of the best individual talent that the state has to offer.
Of the 52 teams that will be vying for titles, all are able to boast some combination of a high region ranking, players in the U.S. national team training pool and – for the older clubs – current collegiate players, as well as highly sought after college recruits.
“We are proud to have so many talented teams involved in this event,” tournament director Sharron Safriet said. “It’s always great to have so many highly regarded teams and individual players to showcase in the state cup.”
The sheer volume of talent roaming the field over the next two days is hard to quantify. The number of national team pool players is in the dozens and every team featuring high school-aged players is stocked with a roster full of names that are on plenty of recruiting lists.
One such standout is Rachel Jones, a forward for the Tophat 18 (Atlanta) squad that will be competing in the girls’ U15 bracket. Jones is far from just an exceptional talent. Not only is she a primary scoring threat for a team that ranks first in the state, region (encompassing 12 states), and entire nation, but she is also a member of the U.S. national U17 squad.
While doors are opening to international competition for some, college is the next step for many others who will suit up this weekend.
One player soon to be familiar with the area is Brittanie Evans, who will be playing for the U18 Lady Chiefs ’97 Elite team.
Evans has excelled for both the Chiefs and for her high school squad at Lakeside, DeKalb, where she is the school’s all-time assists leader. Based on her healthy careers with each team, she’ll end the summer by moving to Savannah to begin a new chapter as a member of Armstrong Atlantic University.
“Playing (with the Chiefs’ club squad) has helped me in so many ways,” Evans said. “We get the chance to travel and play against the best of the best. This has been a great experience for me. We’ve made it to the (Georgia State Cup) and regionals before, but winning state would definitely be another big goal to achieve.”
Also on the collegiate front, Georgia Southern will have a team member competing as rising sophomore Nick Wells competes for the U19 Georgia Storm 96 Gold squad. An old Georgia Southern rival is also returning to Statesboro as Eli Pinner – a member of the U19 GSA ’96 Premier team and a rising junior at Furman University.
Pinner is a longtime member of his club team and credits it as a large part of his individual achievements.
“A lot of us have been playing together for years,” Pinner said. “After being in college, it’s great to have a reunion. It’s like an all-star game being back on my (club) team since so many guys are now playing for colleges everywhere.”
Pinner added that the prestige of playing in premier events allowed him to be seen by plenty of recruiters and scouts, likely improving his odds of getting an offer from various colleges.
Semifinal play for all age groups – excluding the girls’ U18 and U19 divisions – will take place today at the Georgia Southern soccer stadium, as well as five field set up at the Recreation and Activities Center. All championship games will be held Sunday.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.