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July 14, 2008


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Fresh off a wave of success in their first season as members of the University of South Carolina women’s soccer team, rising sophomores Brooke Jacobs and Brittiny Rhoades are gearing up to compete in the US Youth Soccer National Championship next week with their club team.

Best friends and roommates at South Carolina, Jacobs and Rhoades will travel with their club, the FC Pennsylvania Strikers, to Little Rock, Arkansas, from July 23-27 as one of the top four teams remaining in the nation in the Girls Under-19 bracket. The four clubs in the Final Four punched their tickets to the Championship Series after winning their respective state championships and regional titles.

“It’s the last year that we can compete with the club team so it’s exciting to get to nationals,” Jacobs, a Chambersburg, Pa., native said. “This is our third year with Penn Strikers. We’ve made it to state finals before but never to regionals. There’s one team in our state, the Spirit United Gaels, that has always gone. We always stuck with the Gaels and played with them but never got to the final until this year.”

“The Gaels have a really good team and have a lot of players that play at a high collegiate level too,” Rhoades, a Wilmington, Del., native said. “Those were girls that played together and have known each other since they were little. After three years we finally won state cup and was able to go to regionals.”

Once the Gamecock duo and their team won the state cup as the U19 Eastern Pennsylvania champions, it was a round robin formatted tournament at the Region I Championships in Portland, Maine, that stood between them and a trip to nationals. The regional’s took place from June 27-July 1 and consisted of each state champion in the region (New York East and West, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania East and West, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Virginia) as well as six wild card selections in a format that placed the 16 teams into four groups of four. Much like CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, the team with the best record in each group advanced to a four-team semifinal until a region champion was crowned.

The Penn Strikers won their first three games by a combined 9-0 score before defeating New Jersey’s champion 1-0 in the semifinals. On July 1, the team defeated the Virginia state champion 2-1 to win the region title. Rhoades, playing at right back, scored the first goal in the 70th minute to help the team advance.

“It was a process getting here with five games in five days to win regionals,” Jacobs said. “In the first round at nationals we have to play a team from Texas. It’s actually the same team that (Carolina teammates) Blakely Mattern and Samantha Diaz-Matosas lost to in the regional finals.”

“I think we played really well,” Rhoades said. “Brooke would work so hard up top and then get fouled in the box. That’s how most of our goals came in the tournament. Brooke would get nailed in the box and we’d score on PK’s.”

Competition at the US Youth Soccer National Championships begins Wednesday, July 23 when the Strikers take on the Region III champion from Texas at 9:30 a.m. The following day Jacobs and Rhoades will compete with their team against the Region II champion from Michigan at 7:30 a.m. before completing the round robin on Friday against the Region IV winner from California at 11:30 a.m. The teams with the most points will advance to play for the national championship at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 27.

The Gamecock duo, currently taking summer classes at the University of South Carolina campus, hope to become the first players to win a club national title as current South Carolina student-athletes since Leslie Lamb’s club team won the U-20 title in 1998.

South Carolina opens the 2008 season when they travel to UNC Wilmington August 23. That game is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Wilmington, N.C.