The soccer program is making good on its goal of ranking among the state's best.
By JEREMY RASMUSSEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001
TAMPA -- Last year, the Black Watch soccer club sent five teams to the Florida Youth Soccer Association State Cup final four, coming away with two state champions.
At the time, coaching director Kelvin Jones said Black Watch had completed the first part of its five-year plan to become one of the top clubs in the state.
The next phase, he said, was to move on to the national scene.
It appears Black Watch is well on its way.
This year, the club has eight teams in the final four. That's three more than any other club in the state.
The State Cup, to be played June 1-3 in Weston, is one of the premier youth soccer events in Florida. Winners in the older age groups advance to the Southern Regionals on June 21-26 in Memphis.
Black Watch advanced teams in under-15, under-18 and under-19 girls and under-14, under-15, under-17, under-18 and under-19 boys.
In addition, the club had three finalists in the under-11 and under-12 divisions, which advance only to state regional play.
"Some clubs don't even field 11 teams, and we have 11 in the final four," Jones said. "That means from top to bottom, the coaching is good and the players are working hard."
Jones said the club still doesn't have the best players in the state, but that is changing.
"At last weekend's playoffs, at least two dozen people from across the state came up to me, gave me their card and asked if their son or daughter could get a tryout with our club," Jones said.
"It took a long time to build up to this, but we have suddenly burst onto the scene."
Jones said he envisions attracting players from as far away as Miami and Jacksonville.
"We've done a great job without them," he said. "But getting them, we could go to that next level."
Jones said, however, the club already has one of the country's premier players in Bryce Wegerle, who will play at James Madison. "Bryce has some of the most fantastic skills I've ever seen," Jones said. "I think he's ready for the next challenge. JMU is a top-20 team without him.
"With him, they could be a top-10 team."
Black Watch girls coaching director Jim Cote also has a few elite players.
Under-18 star Regan Jones is a regional Olympic Developmental Player selection and is headed to Notre Dame. In fact, every senior on the under-18 team has a college scholarship.
On the under-19 team, Susie Ball returns from national champion North Carolina to lead the team into another final four.
"It's no secret how we've gotten to this place," Jones said.
"We just work harder than everybody."