The Hinesville Gator U13 Classic Team entered the world of competitive soccer last weekend and landed in the finals at the Atlanta Cup. The Atlanta Cup is the largest competitive youth tournament in the United States, played over the three-day Labor Day weekend. After holding only three complete team practices, and with key players nursing injuries, the Gators made it to the championship round. Coached by Tom Sukaratana and assisted by Christopher Martin, the Gators are expected to be a highly competitive team in the state and the region.
During their first competitive match, the Gators came up against the USA Revolution. In the 3-2 win for the Gators, teamwork and determination were the factors that gave them the edge. Tyler Causer had two goals in this game with assists from Clark Sukaratana. Stanford Graham also had a goal with an assist from Causer.
The second game ended in a 6-0 loss for the Gators. The Gators faced the NASA 14 select team, who had already been playing competitively for a couple years. The nationally ranked team’s experience proved to be an eye-opener for the Gators who, after the loss, became determined to make it to the finals, knowing this was the team they would have to face.
In the third game against the Lanier Sharks the Gators rebounded with authority. Stanford Graham scored the first goal of the game off an assist by Tyler Causer. Graham then scored on a penalty kick after a foul was called in the box. Chris Martin and Tareak Barnes assisted Graham on his third goal of the game later in the match. The defense during this game was very strong. With the combined efforts of Kelsey Higgason, Asyria Daniels, Ricky Gilliard, and keeper Zachary Vasquez the Gators were able to keep the Sharks down to one goal. This 3-1 win assured the Gators a place in the championship round against the NASA team.
In the first half of the championship game neither team would give an inch. With Tyler Causer, Brooke Standard, and Asyria Daniels all playing with caution due to injuries, the Gators were not going to allow another blow out to happen against this team. With no goals scored on either side going into the half the opposition was becoming frustrated at their inability to score on the novice Gator team. Kelsey Higgason, Ricky Gilliard, and Zachary Vasquez were outstanding in their ability to shut the opponents down, so that Asyria Daniels did not have to reinjure her painful knee. In the second half NASA was able to find the goal and score the only of goal of the game. During the awards ceremony Coach Tom Sukaratana spoke proudly of his team. "After only three practices it is wonderful that this team can come play for the first time and make it to the finals. They have a long way to go yet but I am proud of what they accomplished in the Atlanta Cup."