TULSA, Okla. – New Mexico State women’s soccer sophomore Alexis Rienks is part of the Nebraska Gretna Prima Green club team that will compete for a national title at the 2015 United States Youth Soccer National Championships, which begins Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla.
Rienks, a defender for the Aggies from Lincoln, Neb., will be playing at the national event for the second-straight year after Gretna Prima Green won the Region II under-19 regional tournament in Fricso, Texas, last month.
The US Youth Soccer National Championships is the final of three steps to a national title. Rienks and Gretna Prima Green first had to win the Nebraska state tournament before winning the regionals to advance to nationals. They will be one of four teams in the girls’ under-19 age group vying for the title. Joining the Nebraska team will be state champs and regional winners from Florida, Idaho and Pennsylvania.
“We are very proud of Alexis for the opportunity to represent NM State at the National Championships for the second-straight year,” said Aggie women’s soccer head coach Freddy Delgado. “She is the caliber of player we would like to continue to attract to our program. She is hard working, self motivated, accountable, excellent in the classroom and is playing at a very high level on the field.”
Rienks made 19 starts and played in all 22 games last season as a freshman at NM State. She logged in the third-most minutes played for the Aggies and at the conclusion of the season was honored on the Academic All-Western Athletic Conference Freshman/Transfer team.
She helped Gretna Prima Green to a 4-0-1 record at the Region II Championships, including a 2-0 victory in the championship match to advance to back-to-back nationals appearances.
“I am extremely excited to be competing for a national title this week for the second year in a row,” Rienks said. “Going head to head with the top club teams in the United States and being able to represent, not only Nebraska, but NM State is a huge honor. Playing against some of the best players in the country will do nothing but prepare me for this upcoming season. I can't wait to get back down to Las Cruces to start getting ready for this fall’s schedule.”
NM State is one of a few universities being represented in Tulsa with a team member, but that one player was a couple of minutes away from being nine Aggie players at the National Championships.
The New Mexico state champion under-18 Rio Rapids club team from Albuquerque, which includes eight players who will be starting their freshman season for the Aggies in August, came within a heartbreaking overtime loss in the Region IV championship game of also qualifying for the US Youth Soccer National Championships and joining Rienks.
After going undefeated in pool play and picking up 2-1 victories in both the quarterfinals and semifinals in Boise, Idaho, Rio Rapids lost 3-2 in overtime to the Utah state champion, La Roca club, a team it had defeated 3-0 in pool play.
The match would be tied at halftime, but a goal by incoming NM State freshman Rebecca Mazzie in the 60th minute would give Rio Rapids a 2-1 advantage. The New Mexico champs seemed to be on their way to the national tournament as Mazzie’s goal held until the 89th minute. But with under two minutes to go La Roca would knot the match up at 2-2 with a goal and then would go on to win in overtime.
Mazzie would finish with two goals in the regional tournament, both versus La Roca, while fellow Aggie freshmen Samantha Afonso and Sabrina Ruiz would each also mark a goal. Also on the Rio Rapids squad were NM State freshmen Jasarra Baca, Mariah Baker, Audrey Chavez, Ashley Martin and Dominique Rivera.
“This is one of the reasons why we are very excited about our freshman class,” Delgado said. “Our Rio Rapids players competed at the Regional Championships against players who are going on to play at top BCS schools. They had a great tournament and showed a glimpse of the talent they will bring to NM State.”
Rienks and her teammates begin their quest for a national championship by playing three pool games, one versus each of the other three competitors, beginning Tuesday and concluding Thursday. The top two teams will then play in the championship game, which will be played on Saturday beginning at 4:45 p.m. (MDT).
US Youth Soccer will stream selected pool matches, including Gretna Prima Green’s first match on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. (MDT), and all 14 championship matches for free on its website. Click on the links provided for access to full streaming schedule as well as Tuesday’s Gretna Prima Green match.
“Although players improve during the season, a college player’s true growth develops over the spring and summer,” Delgado said. “Alexis had a very good freshman season in part due to the opportunity to play against the best national competition over the summer, we hope the same happens for our Rio Rapids girls.”
Each summer, the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series crowns the boys and girls National Champion in seven age groups (Under-13 through Under-19). The finals are a culmination of a yearlong series of competitions at the state and regional levels which provide approximately 185,000 players on over 10,000 teams from 55 US Youth Soccer State Associations the opportunity to showcase their soccer skills against the best competition in the nation.