March 27, 2002 – Eighteen soccer players between the ages of 10 and 13 leave for Orlando, Fla., on Thursday to compete in the Disney Spring Holiday Soccer Festival IV.
The soccer team includes mostly Under 12 players who have been coached by Robert "Trip" Dunville since January 1998, when St. Thomas Youth Soccer Association, Inc. (now Peacemakers Youth Soccer Club) traveled to Cocoa Beach, Fla., for a tournament.
The team also includes four players from the Under 14 team that is usually coached by Adalio Araujo, and three guest players: Jabari Velinor, who played with the Under 12 team until this summer when his family relocated to Houston, and Kai Schuster and Ali Van Gurp of St. Croix.
The team travels with the blessings of the Peacemakers Youth Soccer Club Board of Directors and those of the "parent" body – St. Thomas Soccer Association. Over the past few years, the Peacemakers have played in many tournaments locally and in the islands of Puerto Rico, Anguilla, Antigua and St. Maarten. However, they have not played in a highly competitive tournament of this type for some years.
The Under 12 team is talented, very athletic and highly skilled, said a release from the Peacemakers. These attributes, along with the careful direction and continuous feedback of Coach Trip have provided a winning combination for this team.
The team has to "play up" because the Under 12 age group was booked but later cancelled by the tournament organizers. The team is now entered in the Under 13 category and will benefit from the skills and experience of Peacemakers U14 players: Dimitri Maduro, JP de Jongh, Richie Bourne-Vanneck and Jamie Brown.
The team is further enhanced with the talents of Jabari Velinor, who was Peacemakers' leading striker and MVP in the 2000 Inter-Scholastic Fall Soccer League. Jabari is currently a member of the Classics Soccer Club A division.
Ali, age 11, is a Good Hope honor roll sixth-grader who has been playing soccer for six years. He currently plays for Ujjama, coached by Alex Dizon. He played in the Roosevelt Roads 2001 tournament with the St. Croix Youth Soccer Association and won the award for Highest Scorer for U12.
Kai is a 12-year-old Country Day sixth-grader who normally plays mid-defense and midfield, but his first love is playing goalkeeper. Kai has been playing soccer since he was five, and he currently plays for the Marshals.
Dunville thinks his players are ready mentally and physically for the tournament and says, "The main focus is to compete at the highest level we can compete, create new friendships with players from other teams and to showcase the level of Virgin Islands soccer." He is aware that soccer in the Virgin Islands is relatively young compared to the mainland and that those players are usually bigger in size than ours, but he still expects the team to do well. He feels that the addition of the U14 players, Jabari and the St. Croix players, to the team is all very positive.
"The St. Croix players have created friendships with my team from years of competitions. They were always rivals on the field but shared a bond because of their skills and love for the sport. They [Ali and Kai] traveled to St. Thomas on Sunday, March 24, for a practice and it was obvious that they fit in well with the other players." The coach also noted that over the years he has seen Kai and Ali play and "always wanted them to work with our team, so having them as 'guest players' to complement our team should be very rewarding."
The team captain is 12-year-old Antilles honor roll student Madison van Heurck. He is from a soccer family: his father Nicolas and mother Maria play for Antilles Strikers, men's and women's teams, and his sister Charlotte plays for Antilles School and the St. John Wolfpack. Dunville is confident in Madison's abilities as team captain and notes that "he leads by example in effort and ability."
In addition to players mentioned above, the team traveling includes Rahim Benjamin, Nolan Diehl, Christo Dimopoulos, Adam Fuller, John David McDonald, Jarell Mason, Haydn Mitchell, Malvon Percival II, Luke Perry and Kamron Rondon.
The tournament guarantees each team three games with the opportunity for more games when a team wins one of their three games. The schedule of the Peacemakers' games is:
Friday, 3/29, 8:00 a.m. against Plantation Eagles of Florida
Friday, 3/29, 3:00 p.m. against the Seahawks of New York.
Saturday, 3/30, 9:45 a.m. against CFU Phoenix of Florida.
When the Peacemakers win any of these three games, they will play again on Sunday.
The other teams participating in Under 13 category are the Centennial Warriors of New Jersey, Cosmos De Granby of Canada, Enterprise Wings of Alabama and Team 8 of Florida.
The trip is expensive, with costs of airfare, accommodation, ground transportation and food for the 18 players and several parent chaperones. Most parents, however, consider this cost as an investment in their child's athletic and academic futures. These tournaments attract college coaches looking for talented players. The serious "scouting" usually starts at the Under 14 and Under 16 age groups but the Under 13 games will be watched closely.
The costs of this trip are defrayed somewhat by the proceeds of Peacemakers' fundraisers – a bake sale at the beginning of March and a car wash at Wendy's parking lot this past Saturday. Other forms of financial assistance have come from corporate sponsors and from a Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) youth delinquency prevention grant. The uniforms and coaching equipment were purchased with funds allocated in this organization's "Youth Soccer Enhancement Program". This trip would not be possible without the collective efforts of many committed parents, Peacemakers' friends and the Board of Directors who have shared the commitment of providing opportunities to play competitive soccer.
The team leaves St. Thomas at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 28, and returns Tuesday, April 2, in the afternoon. Coaches Dunville and Araujo and several parents will accompany the team of 18 players.
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