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Top youth soccer players in Georgia competing at Georgia Southern
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    Each year, the Georgia State Cup determines the top team for both boys and girls programs across seven different age groups.
    As the sun rises on the final day of the competition, a total of just 28 teams — whittled down from hundreds of original tournament participants — are still alive, with one more victory needed to claim a state championship.
    On Saturday, the state semifinals were held for the majority of the divisions. As anyone would expect from the late rounds of such a talent-rich competition, almost all of the games were very hotly contested.
    Of the 26 games played on the grounds of Georgia Southern University Saturday, 13 matches were decided by a single goal while four more contests saw a two-goal margin of victory.
    Among some of the notable matches:

KSA upsets UFA in U15 Boys

    Josh Gutierrez scored both goals for Bryson Park KSA to lead the Lilburn-based team in an upset of the top-ranked UFA Premier, 2-1, in the semifinals of the U15 boys bracket.
    KSA jumped out early as Gutierrez scored in the game’s eight minute when he found himself open in the box and was able to shot it past the diving UFA Premier goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead they’d take to halfftime. Seven minutes in to the second half, Gutierrez struck again, this time scoring on a deflected cross that trickled along the goalline, hitting the post and caromed in for a goal. UFA answered four minutes later when Nyger Hunter to take a ball near his chest and get his foot high enough to blast it past the keeper to trim the lead to one.
    Despite dominating possession and changes on the day, UFA was unable to score again.
    “We were able to come out and play our style,” said KSA coach Bruno Kalonji. “We got a quick goal and then we knew it was going to be a long defensive game. We were able to capitalize on our counterattack and hold on for the win.”
    Bryson Park KSA will play against Concorde Fire Elite today at 9 a.m. for the division's championship.

Tophat topples SSA Chelsea in U15 Girls bout
    The number one ranked U15 girls team in the nation, Tophat, out of Atlanta, dominated all aspects of their semifinal game against SSA Chelsea Saturday en route to a 7-0 win and a spot in the title game today.
    Weldon Kolker scored the first of her two goals eight minutes in to the first half when she was able to find the top corner of the net to give the back-to-back state champions the early lead. Raegan Kelly added a second goal two minutes later to set the tone of the game. Lee Sheppard and Weldon each scored before the end of the first half to put give Tophat a 4-0 lead.
    Emma Tordella and Charlotte Teeter scored two minutes apart midway through the second half and Ashton Smith concluded the scoring in the 74th minute for Tophat.
    “This team has already clinched a spot in the Regional and National playoffs, but it’s good to win and get another game against top competition,” said Tophat coach Ted Colburn. “We’re only a week out of high school season so any extra games can get to help us gel against a high caliber team is helpful.”
    Tophat plays the NASA 18 Elite squad at 11 a.m. for the title.

Tophat's U16 Girls prevail

    In a tense, back-and-forth matchup between Tophat 17 Gold and UFA 99 Premier in the U16 division, Tophat came out on top 1-0 to advance to the finals of the Georgia State Cup.
    Chloe Maize scored an early goal for Tophat. It was an evenly played match throughout as Tophat could not mount enough momentum to add to the score.
    Tophat head coach Troy Garner said he was pleased with the win, however, he was disappointed with his team’s performance.
    “Today, I didn’t think we played very well at all. We won the game, but for our standards we didn’t play well,” Garner said. “We did enough to win and hopefully we will be better tomorrow.”
    Tophat’s U16 team is currently ranked No. 1 in Georgia and No. 14 nationally, according to Garner credits his team’s lack of chemistry and Premier’s excellent play for the low-scoring affair.
    “Give all the credit in the world to Premier. They played hard and they played with a lot of effort,” Garner said. “They wanted the game really bad and we just kind of went through the motions. Fortunately that was enough to get us over the hump. If we want to be state champions tomorrow, we have to play better.”
    Tophat will play NASA G17 Elite in the finals today at 1:30 p.m. The Elite defeated Concorde Fire South in the semi-finals 4-1 to advance to the finals.
    All 14 championship games are slated to be played today, with the first contests kicking off at 9 a.m.
    Unfortunately for local fans, the only Statesboro athletes — Alex Wagner of Statesboro High and Nick Wells of Georgia Southern — did not see their respective squads advance to today's championship round.
    Select games will be streamed live online at

    Mike Anthony, Horrace Holloman and Luke Martin contributed to this story.