Anna Edson is ready to do whatever is asked of her to help the Beverly High girls soccer team this coming season.
With the high level of competition she's faced and the level of success she's reached this summer, her presence on the Panthers is bound to be a welcome addition.
The 5-foot-6 center midfielder was a member of the Under-14 FC Boston Scorpions that won the US Club Soccer National Cup XV Finals in the U14 Girls Super Group in Aurora, Colo. late last month.
"It was unbelievable. Everyone on the team did their jobs and filled their roles," said Edson, who turns 15 years old Tuesday. "We came together at the best possible time.
"We beat STA of New Jersey in the final, 4-3, and it was an unreal experience. I'm not sure it completely hit any of us what we had done until we got up on stage afterwards, accepting our championship trophies, medals and jackets."
With exceptional teammates from across the state and one from southern New Hampshire, some of FC Boston Scorpions' top talents came from the North Shore. In addition to Edson, they included defenders Becca Rocker and Abbi Clickstein of Danvers, attacker Emily Horgen, midfielder Kelsey Moody and outside back Maddy O'Brien (who was injured), both of Boxford, and twins Sam and Amanda Caldarelli of Stoneham. All have been coached by Mo Keita, owner of the Skillz Check Soccer Academy, since they were 10.
"These girls have played together for the last 4-5 years," said Keita, "and it shows what you can do when you stick together and have a common goal."
Best in the nation
Injuries helped contribute to a slow start to the season for the U14 FC Boston Scorpions before they started rolling come tournament time. They had wins at the Stars Cup and the Scorpion Bowl and were a finalist at the Spirit Cup in Penn.
More importantly, they won the Massachusetts State Cup — thus qualifying for Colorado — by defeating the defending national champions, NEFC Elite, in overtime by a 2-1 score.
"Once we beat (NEFC), there was no reason why we couldn't win nationals," said Keita.
More than 1,000 teams from across the United States attempted to qualify for nationals at the State and Regional levels, and the Scorpions were one of 156 clubs to qualify — and one of only two at all levels to finish unbeaten and win their respective championship.
"By the end of the season when everyone came back and was healthy, we were an incredibly strong team," said Edson. "We were going to keep going, no matter what."
Edson and her teammates won their three qualifying games over Pittsburgh Riverhounds Dev Academy (5-2), the New Jersey Wildcats Averbuch NPL (2-0) and Samba Woodbury Soccer Club in Minnesota (3-0) to reach the title game vs. STA. In that championship match, Edson assisted on Tess Webb Johnson's goal early in the second half, tying the game at 2-2. It was the spark that helped the Scorpions to victory as they added two more goals in the next nine minutes before holding on for the historic win.
"The Super Group had the best teams from across the country in our age division," said Edson, "and to be able to win the whole thing was unreal."
'Go as hard as I can'
Having played soccer since she was five, Edson became a club player for Aztec when she was 11 and has played at an elite level ever since. She has also been involved in the FC Stars, Boston Breakers and, currently, FC Boston club programs — all with Keita as her coach.
"He's been a huge supporter of mine and helped me get to where I am today," Edson said. "When I came into (club) at 11, I was lost; I didn't have the foot skills or the endurance. But I keep progressing every year with Mo, and my level of play has definitely gone up. My speed of play, thinking quickly and making good decisions ... it's all improved a lot."
Midfield is where Edson plays because "I want to be where the action is. I want the ball on my foot, setting up plays for my teammates and making things happen," she said.
"Center midfield is the brain of the team. They basically coordinate and execute any attacking that occurs," said Keita. "Anna's game awareness has gotten so much better, and her vision the field and shooting has really improved tremendously.
"Anna loves competition and challenges. She stands out when she plays against elite players."
Excellent bloodlines no doubt help Edson on the pitch — her mother, Julie (Broglino) Edson, was a state and national-level gymnast who competed in college, and her older brother Paul went to two Super 8 hockey championships as a talented defenseman at St. John's Prep (helping the Eagles win it as a freshman) and is now gearing up to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — and she doesn't hesitate to turn to them when she has any questions or concerns.
"My mom is always telling me to go as hard as I can," she said. "She's been through all the hard times and the great times with me, and through her I'm learning how to become a better person through all my experiences. And Paul has been my biggest influence sports-wise; I see him get up every morning to do his workouts. When I didn't want to get out of bed early one day, he said, 'Come on, let's go, we gotta work out.' His success inspires me to keep going forward and working hard."
Edson would love to play high level college soccer at an excellent academic institution; she's a straight-A student who says biology is her favorite subject. But that's down the road; after having some time to bask in her club team's national championship, she's ready to don the Orange-and-Black of Beverly for the Panthers.
"I want to apply what I've learned through club and elite levels of play and take that to my high school game," she said. "I love helping my teammates and giving them passes in great (scoring) position. The girls on the team have all been so welcoming; the captains, Kadrianna Letts and Natalie Mellinger, are great, and I've been friends with a lot of other girls like Stephanie McLeod, Aly Barr, Katelyn Singer, Jordan Butters, Emily Pratt and Cara Norris for a long time. I can't wait for it to start."