Sporting her jet black soccer jersey with a red FC Pride logo across the chest last month, Alexi Hardie broke for a goal — a moment she’s become all too familiar with in her young soccer career.
Although no stranger to the big stage, this moment was different. Apparently hidden from the opposing team’s defenders, Hardie found herself all alone.
As a player who has become accustomed to dishing out the assist, Hardie took matters into her owns hands — or feet for that matter. With a quick tap of the foot, Hardie sent her FC Pride U15 Girls 01 Elite soccer team to a U.S. Youth National League Divisional Championship, advancing them to Nationals at the end of July in Fresco, Texas.
In the final three minutes of the game against Century V Gold (Pittsburgh) on March 20, Hardie, playing as the left outside midfielder, took a pass from center midfielder Alexa Holl and chipped in the game-winner just outside the left side of the goal line to secure a 1-0 win.
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“I saw that I was unmarked and had a clear shot,” Hardie said, who is a freshman at Mt. Vernon. “So I took my chance. It was an amazing moment.”
The shot gave the team the three points it needed to win its division — for the first time in state history — as it finished with a 4-1-2 record.
The defense, anchored by fellow Marauder Cleo Mills and Greenfield-Central’s Lucy Brand, also both freshmen, allowed just four goals all tournament.
“No team works harder than this group and it shows,” FC Pride coach Matt Blackbourne said. “Time and time again, when their backs are against the wall, they come through.”
The U.S. Youth Soccer Nationals will take place from July 25 to 31 and features three days of round robin play.
Last year, the trio helped FC Pride earn a bronze medal after finishing third overall.
The same group has also won the 2014 US Club National Championship and the 2015 Indiana State Championship.
Hardie, who was named Daily Reporter Co-Girls Soccer Player of the Year in the fall after finishing her rookie season with 11 goals and 16 assists (county leading), said playing with girls she is familiar with, as well as the team’s experience from last season, should serve them well this summer.
“That experience definitely motivates us,” she said. “Playing with Cleo and Lucy has been amazing. They are both outstanding players, and I can always rely on them on and off the field.”
“Their club team is competing at the highest level nationally in their age group, and it is very satisfying to see all their hard work paying off. Hancock County is well represented,” Mt. Vernon girls soccer coach Steve Williams said.
Mills missed eight games at the beginning of the high school season with a concussion but was still able to score 13 goals in 11 games. She also added three assists. Brand served as a defender for the Cougars and finished with two goals and three assist.
The trio also was named to the All-Hoosier Heritage Conference team last fall while Hardie was named First Team All-District (5), as well.
Brand said playing for the FC Pride has led to hers, and others, early high school success.
“We know how success feels and we want to do it all over again with a whole new team (in the fall),” she said. “It has been an amazing experience that we will all have memories about for a long time.”
July 25-31, Toyota Soccer Complex, Frisco, Texas
Midwest United FC 01 Royal (Missouri)
CUP Gold 00/01 (Ohio)
FC Pride 01 Elite (Indiana)
Sunrise Sting 00/01 (Florida)
Lucy Brand (Greenfield-Central)
Alexi Hardie (Mt. Vernon)
Cleo Mills (Mt. Vernon)