Local soccer stars earn shot to compete for national title

Grand Strand residents Cole Gulledge and Conor Sloan have played soccer together locally for as long as either of them can remember, and now they have a chance to play on the national level.

When the two are not playing for their Coast 96 Red Premier team for Coach Joel Banta, they are members of the SCUFC Battery Under-14 Development Academy squad.

The Battery team is comprised of top players from across the state competition in the Southeast Pre-Academy League against some of the largest clubs in Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas.

After finishing third out of 13 teams in the regular season with a 9-2-2 record, the Battery won the Southeast Memorial Day Tournament with three consecutive wins over Charlotte Soccer Academy, CASL and Miami’s Kendall Soccer.

The title qualified the Battery to represent the Southeast as one of eight teams to play for the national title in July at the National Premier League Champions Cup in Chicago.

The other seven teams are the regional tournament champions from the Midwest, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Northern California , Southern California, Texas and Northern Illinois.

“Congratulations to Conor and Cole on making such a large impact on the SCUFC Academy team,” Banta said. “To win a regional tournament and go on to play for a national championship is something that very few players get to experience.”

While the duo is excited to earn the berth to compete for a national title in Chicago, they are disappointed to leave behind teammate Austin Bolton last weekend during the regional tournament.

Austin is the third local member of the Coast 96 Red Premier team on the Academy squad, but he was unable to participate due to a severe back injury and is questionable to be able to compete in the Chicago tournament.

“We are hoping that Austin is recovered and can make it to Nationals,” said Sloan, a student at St. James Middle School.

Win, lose or draw, the experience of playing for one of only eight teams in the U.S. to compete for a national championship is a victory in itself.

“This achievement should be celebrated by their families, teammates and our community,” said Coast director of coaching Ross Morgan.

Photo courtesy of Coast FA

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