NORWALK, Conn. -- Players and coaches on the Norwalk Blue Thunder girls 11-and-under soccer team jump on plane this weekend to play in the Disney Presidents Day Soccer Festival, beginning Friday in Orlando, Fla.
The Blue Thunder, who won the State Cup last fall, are one of 250 teams in the tournament.
Were all happy that were getting this chance, said player Olivia Leone. I was hoping wed get the chance. Its my second time going down there. We want to have fun but we also want to play our best. Were all really excited.
Blue Thunder coach Jeff Ortolano said ESPN and Disney conduct three soccer tournaments each year. The Blue Thunder caught the attention of organizers with their State Cup victory and several other recent tournament championships.
Agreeing to participate in the tournament was one thing. Clearing the financial hurdles was another. The team raised $15,000. Georgetown Subaru , Overtons Restaurant of Norwalk and Melissas Rainbow for Joy , a nonprofit group based in Long Island, helped sponsor the trip. Ortolano said costs for all of the girls have been covered.
It was a little hard to fundraise, Leone said. Some people would ignore us, but we kept smiling and just kept on trying.
Ortolano has coached the 5th/6th-graders for three years to astounding success. The Blue Thunders 3-0 win over Bethel in the State Cup final in November was the first girls state championship for a Norwalk Junior Soccer Association team. The team, coming off its fifth undefeated league season, has won one indoor tournament and placed second in another two this winter and is currently in first place in their indoor futsal league playing against 12 and 13 year olds.
From the start, this team came together quickly, Ortolano said. Theyre a very athletic team and and theyve become very determined. You always know what youre going to get out on the field with this team. They always give everything they have.
Norwalks team includes Chloe Ortolano, Olivia Leone, Lea Panagiotidis, Mikayla Fosina, Julia Sferlazza, Emily Denunzio, Jazmine Fred, Ashleigh Doyle, Cierra Kitt, Peyton McNamara, Katie Goldsmith, Sofia Tarasidis, Tara Hufnagel and Stephany Escalante.
The team is also headed to a tournament in Virginia in March.
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