by Heather Colley
Two years ago, Coach John Sutherland initiated the formation of the Sleepy Hollow Football Club as a branch of AYSO Tarrytown to give skilled young soccer players the opportunity to play in a variety of different divisions within the Westchester Youth Soccer League. Two teams in particular, Blaze (9-year-olds) and Mustang (Under 13), have succeeded tremendously under Sutherland’s coaching and oversight. The teams have galvanized camaraderie and are the beginning of a new generation of female athletes that will likely go on to compete competitively at the varsity level for Sleepy Hollow. The skills and teamwork demonstrated by the younger AYSO Women’s Club teams are progressing as the players do. This year’s Modified Women’s Soccer Team starting lineup for Sleepy Hollow was largely comprised of former Sleepy Hollow Football Club players that were inspired by the formation of a program that promotes excellence in women’s athletics.
The 9-year-old Blaze team for AYSO Club Soccer has only been together for one season, but their promise is obvious. From a young age, the girls are taught about the importance of teamwork in soccer, and their athleticism for the game increases with every practice as coaches help the girls to improve their footwork, setting goals such as reaching 1,000 ball touches every practice. The Under 13 Mustang team has been playing together for about five years. The team is now an elite Division Two soccer team within the Westchester Youth Soccer League. For both teams, impeccable records are testament to the hard work of all athletes.
Blaze, though only having been together for one season, has an undefeated record of 9-0 and are winners of the Westchester Youth Soccer League Fourth Division. This fall, the team won the Somers Fall Classic, and they are advancing on to the Third Division.
In the fall of 2015, the Mustangs won the WYSL Third Division with an 8-1-1 record. They are moving on to Division Two this spring, and the team is currently the 13th ranked Club Team in Westchester. In 2014, the Mustangs were the first ever AYSO Tarrytown team to score at the national level during the AYSO National Games, which took place in California. Locally, the Mustangs won the Wizard of Oss Tournament in both 2014 and 2015, as well the Somers Fall Classic Tournament in both 2012 and 2014. In 2016, the team played in an elite tournament, Chelsea Piers Classic in Connecticut where they took second place.
But the best is still yet to come for this elite Tarrytown team, as the team will be traveling to Palm Beach, Florida to represent New York at the AYSO National Games this summer. In Florida, the girls will be playing talented teams hailing from all over the United State, and they are projected to perform very well despite being disadvantaged by playing teams that are a full year older.
Sutherland is training the future of Sleepy Hollow Women’s Athletics with his two elite soccer teams. As the Mustangs near the beginning of their high school experience, many are expected to play at the Varsity level beginning as early as freshmen/sophomore year. A large percentage of the Mustangs team that will be attending Nationals in Florida are planning on furthering their career with Sleepy Hollow athletics.
The success of the Mustang team has been cultivated and fine-tuned over years of hard work and dedication to the sport. The team started out much like Sutherland’s Blaze team of nine-year-olds. With two increasingly successful and committed youth teams about four years apart, the AYSO Club Soccer program is likely to produce Sleepy Hollow’s next starting athletes to make up a large base of a very competitive varsity program at Sleepy Hollow High School.
“The young ladies that are involved are gaining a great learning experience by playing with a team. They will be more physically fit, emotionally strong, and gain lifelong friendships in the process,” Sutherland said.