This weekend IMG Academy in Bradenton will play host to the national Super Y youth soccer championships.

This weekend IMG Academy in Bradenton will play host to the national Super Y youth soccer championships.

This year’s 16-U bracket, which begins play Friday, includes several firsts: the first team from the Panhandle to qualify for nationals as well as the first player and coach from Port St. Joe.

Don Maples of Cape San Blas will manage the Tallahassee Tottenham club, which includes Ebony Alexander, a high school junior from Port St. Joe.

“This is a first time a team from the Panhandle has reached the national tournament,” Maples said. “Super Y is the next level down from the U.S. National Team, so we are pretty happy.”

In part, that confidence is borne from a summer of qualifying.

Super Y divides teams by region, there are 16, including the Florida Region.

Those 16 teams begin the national tournament in group play, followed by the semifinals and finals, which will be played Tuesday.

That Tottenham qualified as one of the 16 best is a testament to a focus on competing and letting the rest fall into place.

Due to the lack of a numbers, Tottenham was forced to play at the U-18 level during the summer, facing teams from around the state comprised of players, on average, at least two years older.

Those teams hailed from Sunrise, Orlando and Miami, among other locales.

“We never made a big deal about it,” Maples said. “We just never talked about the age difference. We just talked about competing.

“After that, I think we’ll be ready for anything (at the national tournament).”

The team finished its eight-game region schedule 6-1-1, winning the region against Miami Lakes in another tale of overcoming odds.

In the first of a two-game final series, Miami Lakes spanked Tottenham 4-1 to knot the teams in overall points and force the final game.

Tottenham won1-0 on a goal in the waning minutes of the game.

“We made some adjustments between games and they worked,” Maples said.

Now, the team will open group play in the national tournament, with teams from around the country and Canada, against the Canada U-16 winner.

“I am just excited to compete at that level,” Alexander said. “It’s a little unreal. I try not to overthink it.”

An attitude which has served her pretty well so far, having earned a spot among Tottenham’s 22-player roster after lengthy and competitive tryouts in the spring.

“I was pretty determined,” Alexander, who leads the Lady Tiger Sharks of Port St. Joe in goals in the young scholastic season. “I was excited to get to play a higher level.”

An even higher level awaits this weekend.