Lighting a Fire: Fire FC girls team hopes state run continues
The Fire FC Premier ‘97 girls of the Grand Junction Soccer Club has already accomplished something no team in the organization has done before.
The Fire reached the Colorado State Cup finals and figure, why stop now?
The team of 14 of the best 13-and-under players in the Grand Junction area are taking on Nike Rush of Littleton in the State Cup Finals at 11 this morning in Denver.
The winner advances to the Far West Regionals to represent Colorado in a tournament comprised of 12 state champions from the western United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.
“We have a really talented group and they are showing it,” Fire coach Alex Chaffetz said. “Nike Rush is a nationally recognized program. They have 30,000 soccer players in their club. They are tough and we would have earned a championship by beating them.”
The Fire winning the State Cup isn’t as farfetched as one might thing. The team won the Colorado State Premier League and split with the Rush during the regular season, with Nike winning the first game 3-1 and Fire FC taking the second 3-0.
The Fire FC is a special group of young athletes. Although most of the teams they face have a larger talent pool to choose from, the Fire has developed this team for a long time.
“I started coaching quite a few of them when they were 5 years old,” said Chaffetz, whose daughter, Taylor, is a midfielder. “We get them exposure to top-level soccer. For perspective on that, last year we traveled over 10,000 miles.”
The efforts of the team haven’t gone unnoticed. Six players are on the Colorado Olympic Development Program: Taylor Chaffetz, Baseley McClaskey, Samantha Melchor, Courtney Coffey, Leah Swander and Elie Borszich.
“We have very supportive parents and having players that are committed to seeing how good they can be,” Chaffetz said. “As a coach, we put them in an environment where we promised we’d never get in the way of their success, we’d give them every tool and every opportunity to find out how good they are.”
And the team found out it’s pretty talented. Coffey, Swander, and Barger lead the Fire’s offense, and defensively, the team has allowed three goals during the Colorado State Cup and recorded shutouts in half of its league games.
Teresa Giandonato, Audrey Rose Kachin, Mackenzie King, Karly Malottand Sarah Benton lead the defense, with Borszich in goal.
“Our success has a lot to do with their commitment, hard work and dedication,” Chaffetz said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the result and we’ll find out if they are the best in the state.”