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Kickers head across the pond
Fourteen players from the boys U-15 select soccer team Arsenal will head to Europe next month to compete in two prestigious tournaments.
Theyll be the first Bainbridge Island team to go to Europe and participate at this level of play.
In Europe, soccer is the sport, Arsenal coach Rupert Jungnitz said. We have a very talented group of young individuals, and after a few years of playing together on the same team, I think this will be a great opportunity for these boys to experience a whole new level of competition.
The Arsenal U-15 team was formed two years ago as a Bainbridge Island Select Soccer club. The team consists of 18 players, 13 from Bainbridge Island, and represents the most talented players from three different leagues.
Last year, Arsenal qualified with 44 other teams to compete in the premier division, the highest division in club play.
The team placed in the top division, and through league play this year placed third overall with a record of 8-4-2.
It was Jungnitzs idea to lead the team to Europe this summer.
He contacted Sports Tour International, one of the largest tour organizers in the United States, which directed him to Denmarks Dana Cup Tournament and Englands Newcastle United Soccer Festival.
The team leaves July 19, and opens play at the 25-year-old Dana Cup in Hjorring, Denmark. The tournament will be attended by more than 20,000 players, coaches and spectators over five days.
The atmosphere at the tournament will be similar to that of a mini-Olympic village, Jungnitz said. At the opening ceremonies, the boys will walk in representing their country and carrying the American flag.
It will be a pretty patriotic, carnival feeling, with an emphasis on the kids enjoying themselves, and of course competing at the highest level of play that is out there.
The team will be guaranteed at least five games, followed by single-elimination matches leading up to the finals.
After the Dana Cup, the boys will explore the historical sites in Denmark, England, Norway and Scotland. Eight of the 18 days that the boys will be in Europe will be devoted to touring.
Part of the reason for me wanting to take the boys to Europe is for the experience to travel to a different country, Jungnitz said. For a young person to travel to Europe with a group of his friends will be a trip of a lifetime.
I know that Bainbridge players in the past have been able to make contacts while in Europe, and hopefully this will be something that the boys will talk about for years to come.
Off to the U.K.
On July 31, the team will open play at the Newcastle United Soccer Festival in England. The tournament will consist of 150 premier soccer teams.
Fourteen boys will be participating in the European tournaments, four of whom are were invited to join the Arsenal team for the trip.
Jungnitz had wanted to take more players, but after Sept. 11 and the situation abroad some players dropped out.
Luckily, we were able to recruit players that had played for the team in the past, he said.
Players making the trip include Daniel Brody, David Elliott, Matthew Frazier, Dylan Tucker Gangnes, Beau Green, Edward Harris, Jake Hinton, Bernt Johnson, Alex Jungnitz, Clif McKenzie, Max Suffis, Sam Tomlinson, Cameron Wagner and Chris Zeringer.
To prepare for the tournaments, Jungnitz and assistant coach Steve Larsen have enlisted help from several different specialty trainers. The team practices three times a week, and has participated in four local tournaments.
Poulsbos Sam Tomlinson, a forward and one of five non-island residents to make the trip, said it will be a good experience to see what it is like to play against some different teams.
It will be nice to be looked at as higher in the sports level, agreed Alex Jungnitz, a center-midfielder. Soccer in Europe is more popular than baseball and football combined in the States.
Both agreed it will be sweet to represent their country at a tournament level of play.
Traveling alongside coach Jungnitz and the 14 soccer players will be five parents.
The boys will have an opportunity to do what they really want to do, play soccer, Jungnitz said.
They will get to see lots of different types of play, but most importantly they will get to experience another culture.