Combining a great tournament with an exciting place to visit is just what the Peabody Hot Shots III youth soccer team was looking for. So, the girls are in Hershey, Pennsylvania this weekend to compete in the Hershey Cup. The U 11 team has two sixth graders and 13 fifth graders, and the weekend will consist of soccer along with trips to famous Hershey Park with their families.
“We are always looking for a good tournament,” said veteran coach Silvio Albano, who is assisted by his son Eric, Keith Doucette, and Anthony Lavallee. “The idea is to have fun first, and playing soccer comes second. We don’t want to put any pressure on them at such a young age. I think it will be a good experience for the girls, and will give me a great chance to see what we need to do.”
In addition to the 12 girls that have been on the team, they were able to pick up three more for the tournament. Hot Shots will play three teams in their bracket starting with the host Kick Kats. OP Fire Red from Ohio, and PA Classic 02 Premier from Pennsylvania are all in the same bracket. The winner of that division will play the first place team in the other bracket with all games taking place today and tomorrow.
“We are a town team, and I know we’ll go up against some club teams,” said Albano. “We will definitely face strong competition and be tested. At U10 there are no records kept because it’s really not about the competition. We went 2-1-1 at the Danvers Invitational over Memorial Day weekend, 2-0-1 at the Friendship Tournament, and 5-2-1 during the season (9-3-3 overall record).
“It will be interesting because this will be our first time playing on the bigger field. They start out 6 vs. 6, and now are 8 vs. 8. I told the girls and their parents this is all about having a good time. It’s a great chance to bond, and not to worry about the soccer results.”
Albano has been coaching in Peabody Youth Soccer for several years, and previously coached both Hot Shots II and III. Handling both teams was a big commitment, and when some of the girls from Hot Shots II moved up because of numbers at the older level, he now has just the one team to worry about. The girls will play in the North Reading Labor Day Tournament before moving up to first year U12’s in the fall.
The Hot Shots have a terrific goalie in Olivia Griffin, who showed so much promise Albano sent her to a club team.
“She trained with an Italian coach from Milan, who thought very highly of her,” said Albano. “She is truly amazing, and we have another good goalie in Shelby Doucette. That’s definitely a strong area for us.”
At this age level Albano uses his players half the time at forward and half on defense so they can get a better idea of where they are stronger. Aja Alimonti, Haley Baker, Lea Bettencourt, Jordyn Collins, Jenna Durkin, Olivia Garvey, Amber Kiricoples, Olivia Lavallee, Riley Lynch, Jacqueline Nazzaro, Bridgett O’Connell, Mia Tsaparlis, and Alyssa Vounessea are the other members of the team.
The team will bring a Boston Strong message to the tournament. One of the parents, Lea Vounessea, came up with the idea and had shirts made to show that Peabody represents the Greater Boston area tragically affected by the Patriot’s Day bombings at the Boston Marathon. The bright yellow shirts with the words Boston Strong in big blue letters across the front are sure to be a hit. The girls have blue soccer shorts to match the lettering. It will be hard to miss the Hot Shots, who will be wearing the most unique uniforms there.
The trip to Hershey has been in the planning for over six months. Hershey Park is one of the great family amusement areas in the country with over 65 rides including 11 coasters. There is also a new water park called The Boardwalk so when they are not playing soccer the girls will have plenty to do. Many families are either leaving a little early or planning to stay an extra couple of days to take in all the attractions.
Jean DePlacido is a correspondent for The Salem News. You can contact her at JMDeplacido@aol.com.