Three local youth soccer teams went to the Florida Youth Soccer Association state tournament in Auburndale this past weekend, and one came home as champions.

Of the three teams from the Venice Area Youth Soccer Association to go to the tournament, the U13 boys team lost, 3-2, in the overtime period of the state semifinal, the U14 boys lost, 2-0, in the state final and the U17 boys won, 1-0, in the semifinals and again, 2-0, in the final to take home the Commissioner’s Cup.

“We knew we could compete because we have a really good habit of holding good teams to either one goal or zero goals, and that frustrates teams,” Atkin said. “So I knew we could compete at this level. Once teams get frustrated, they start to slack a little on defense and that’s how we take advantage.”

The U17 boys team defeated a team from Clermont (near Orlando) in the semifinals and then defeated Boca Raton in the finals on Sunday.

In the semifinals, Max Mergos scored the lone goal off an assist from Joaquin Rueda in the first 20 minutes. From there on out, it was up to the Venice defense to secure the win.

Along with a clean sheet from goalkeeper Stefan Slavov, defenders Chris Miscannon and Bima Bagawanta thwarted several attacks by the opposing offense, and were a huge reason the team won, said Atkin.

“In the semifinal, we have Stefan and the defense to thank for holding on for the shutout,” he said.

In the finals, Rueda opened the scoring off an assist from Diego Heredia. Later, Heredia made it a 2-0 advantage when Niko Neumeyer found him for another score.

For the U17 Falcons team, winning the Commissioner’s Cup means the team will move up to Division-1 — the highest level of soccer in the Florida Youth Soccer Association — for next season.

“I can only imagine how much winning this is going to do for their confidence,” Atkin said. “Usually year after year, it’s a team from Orlando or Miami or Jacksonville that wins. We knocked out the last Orlando team in the tournament and the last Miami team in the tournament.

“And usually, that’s how it goes in high school as well. These guys know that they deserve to be here.”

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