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Gators headed to Vegas for nationals
Gator 13U members are, from left, in back, Kelsey Higgason, DeShawn Jackson, Asyria Daniels, Rickey Gilliard, Brooke Standard, John Paul Padilla, Phillip Swindell, Dalton Smiley and coach Tom Sukaratana; in front, Clark Sukaratana, Tareak Barnes, Tyler Causer, Zachary Vasquez, Stanford Graham, Christopher Martin and Tyler Buckley. Assistant coach Chris Martin is not pictured. - photo by Photo provided.

The Hinesville Gator 13U Classic IV Team had a year all teams fervently wish for. They have been on an unstoppable climb in youth soccer since they won the Georgia Recreation State Championship in May.

Playing competitive soccer for the first time in the fall 2008 season, the Gators took on the Atlanta Cup last August. That is the largest youth soccer tournament in the United States. After finishing in the top two of the Classic V division, the Gators then played their classic fall season schedule against teams from across the state. The Gators plowed through their opponents and won their division, advancing them to the Classic IV level in Spring 2009.

Coach Tom Sukaratana then decided to bring his team to Ocala, Fla., for the USSSA Regional Tournament to gauge how competitive his team is on a Regional level. Not only were they competitive, they placed third in the 13U bracket and won a spot to play for the USSSA National Title in Las Vegas, Nev., in December.

The advantage of years of experience the opposition had on the Gators evaporated quickly when it was apparent that the Gator skill level matched and often exceeded other teams’.

The defensive backbone of the Gators was almost impossible to breach, with only three goals allowed in this tournament. After tying Miami Soccer in their first game, the Gators lost their second game to Clay County, which eventually won the tourney.

They won their third game against Cocoa Beach, Central Brevard, to go into the final game against the host team Ocala. After beating Ocala 2-1 in an overtime shootout the Gators proved that as young as they are, they can compete regionally and nationally.

The team will be starting the spring season in March. They will travel to Charleston at the end of March with all the teams of the Hinesville Soccer Association to play in the Charleston Shootout. In May, the Gators will try to grab another state championship at the Georgia State President’s Cup.

Registration is open for the spring season. Hinesville Soccer will be fielding teams for boys and girls of all ages and skill level. If you are interested in your child playing, send an email to or call 977-4642.

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