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Mantecan selected to 97 U.S. Soccer ODP national squad
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A local competitive youth soccer team was well represented at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV Olympic Development Program Camp at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. June 30-July 5.

More than 210 players from the region, consisting of 14 state youth soccer associations in the west, vied for spots on the 1997 age group’s national ODP team, and five of them play for Manteca-based Northern California Soccer Academy Rangers Premier under-13 boys squad.

Manteca resident Alex Hernandez prevailed as one of the few players chosen to be on the national team, which will participate in international competitions such as the Youth World Cup and Junior Olympics. The talented midfielder will report to the national training camp in Boston Aug. 1.  

Rangers defender Chase Andrade of Modesto was selected to play for the Region IV squad, which meets in Ontario July 28.

Three other NCSA members went through the arduous ODP selection process: midfielder Nate Edwards of Weston Ranch, fullback Ramiro Ceja of Lathrop and midfielder Matt Hurlbut of Lodi. The trio will remain on the California Youth Soccer Association — North state ODP roster with the possibility of advancing to the regional level in future years.

Hernandez, Edwards and Andrade were three of 18 players selected to play on the ODP state team in the Nike Friendship Cup in Beaverton, Ore. over Memorial Day weekend.

Rangers Premier had the most players in a single competitive youth soccer team try out at the regional camp.

The purpose of the U.S. Youth Soccer ODP is to identify and further develop the nation’s top players in all age levels. The process starts with the selection of the best players from each of the nine districts in Northern California. The San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are a part of District 8.

Players are evaluated on technique, tactics, fitness and athletic ability and mental makeup. The ODP process exposes them to top-level competition and quality coaching while earning the attention of college couts.

The Rangers, headed by longtime Manteca area coach Vince Meyer, recently improved the first-year team’s prestige by earning a No. 4 ranking in Northern California, and No. 39 nationally.

“I am very proud of all the boys for the hard work and determination they put in the season,” Meyer said. “Alex will represent us very well at the national level, Chase will do the same at the regional level, and Nate, Ramiro and Matt will continue to represent us well at the state level of youth soccer.

“They are all very hard working, special players. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of the boys.”

— Jonamar Jacinto