Jesus Leyva had no idea when he established an all-girl, under-12 soccer team that it would be invited to the USA Cup, the biggest soccer tournament in the United States.
“There are teams from all over the world that come and attend this event,” said Leyva, who is the Calaveras Arsenals head coach. “I got a call one morning and was asked if my U12 girls’ team would be interested. The level of this tournament is like nothing they have ever seen, and for a small county like Calaveras to go out and represent at a high-level tournament is like nothing we have ever done.”
Along with assistant coach Jamie Jasper, the Arsenals, a team of 14 girls, in July will fly to the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., where they will play and live for a week. Until then, they will train two days a week, preparing for state tournaments. Practice will then continue two to three days a week to get ready for the winter league. From March to June, the girls will participate in one tournament a month until they leave for the USA World Cup in July.
Both Leyva and Jasper have girls on the team and have donated countless hours to youth programs while working full-time.
“It has been amazing to watch these girls that have played against each other ferociously, become close friends and play together like a well-oiled machine,” Jasper said. “They all seem to share both a love for the game and competition in general. For me, I love seeing these sweet, beautiful girls walk onto a field and transform into tough, muddy and strategic athletes.”
When asked why an all-girl team was created in the first place, player Ella Noble said, “Whenever we played with the boys, they refused to pass to us even though they knew we were good players.”
Noble’s sister, Rose, continued, “I like that all the girls get along and it’s just fun. Girls look for an open pass and it doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or girl, we just want to win.”
The expenses are a combined effort. The girls will be fundraising, contributing the funds that they can, and asking for donations. Each girl will need $600 for the tournament, housing and food. They need to fundraise for their plane tickets in addition to their winter league registration, and their uniform costs for the UsSA Cup. The costs are substantial and any support the community can offer is very much appreciated by the team.
“You can only imagine how much help we are going to need from everyone to help these girls live the dream,” Leyva said.
To sponsor the Arsenals program, send checks payable to “Calaveras Youth Soccer League,” care of Christine Noble P.O. Box 596 West Point, Calif. Tax ID: 47-2433793. For further information, contact Leyva at 665-5559 or Christine Noble at 419-0683.