For the 15 members of the newly organized 14-years-and under Payson boys soccer team, participation in the Northern Arizona Champions Cup tournament was the opportunity to build the foundation of a highly competitive high school team.
"If you look at last year's (Payson High School) team that won the state championship, they had a core of eight players that had been together a long time," Payson youth team coach Kim Wholly said.
The success of the state championship team prompted Wholly, wife of Longhorn boys varsity coach Roger Wholly, to start the youth team. Her goal is to eventually turn the squad into a club team.
"Club play is very competitive and it will give the boys the opportunity to play together at a higher level (than recreational league play) over of a number of years," Wholly said.
The current Payson team competes in the Verde Valley Soccer Club league which is a member of the American Youth Sports Association.
In the Champions Cup tournament, March 6 and 7 in Camp Verde, the Payson team finished with an 0-4 record but showed vast improvement as the two-day skirmish played out.
"They became more cohesive in their team play," Wholly said. "It was a great learning experience for them."
During the fray, Payson was somewhat handicapped in that they had only four or five practices and were playing against teams that had long been organized.
But, the wins and losses were not of a concern to Wholly.
"We wanted them out there learning and understanding the game," she said. "That will make them better in the future."
With the tournament in the record books, the coach is in the process of scheduling more games and tournaments for her squad.
To complete her roster, she has openings for two 14-year-old boys. Anyone interested in participating should call Wholly at (928) 474-8785.