Soccer is not exactly the game that made Las Vegas famous.
For Rock Bridge’s Emily Roark and some of Missouri’s other top high school soccer players, though, soccer will be the main attraction to their visit there this weekend.
Roark, a senior goalkeeper for the Bruins, will compete for the Missouri Youth Soccer Association’s team in the 1986 division of the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program National Championships beginning today in Las Vegas. Of the 16 other players from around the state joining Roark on the team, most of them come from the St. Louis area.
Roark said the tournament’s competition and location make it special.
“I’m really excited,” Roark said.
Roark said the team will have plenty of free time and they might get to tour the city.
“Our coach said we’re going to be able to go on an outing,” Roark said. “I don’t know exactly what that means.”
Roark and her teammates will face California (South) on Friday night in the first round of the championships. On Sunday, the winner of that match will face the winner of Friday’s New Jersey-North Texas match. The loser will play in the consolation game Sunday.
Roark said this might be the highest profile event she has played in.
“In Columbia, unless you go play in St. Louis, you don’t get much exposure,” Roark said.
Roark, who has signed to play at Truman State next year, said there will be several college scouts at the tournament.
Rock Bridge coach Marc Van Dover said Roark has many qualities that make her a good goalie.
“She has really good reactions and good hands,” Van Dover said.
John Roark, Emily’s dad, said she also is mentally tough.
“What she has going for her is that she’s always been competitive,” Roark said.
Roark’s team qualified for the tournament by beating Wisconsin in the championship of the Region 2 team camp in July. The team also beat Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.
Roark said winning the camp title was a great feeling.
“That was big because we knew if we won it we went to nationals,” Roark said.
Roark said the team was confident going into the camp.
“We said, ‘We’re a good team, let’s see if we can do it,’” Roark said.
The Missouri team played a warm-up tournament in Memphis earlier this year and faced the Oklahoma State University team.
The Cowboys beat Roark’s team 2-0, but Roark said it was not a blowout.
“We held our own,” Roark said.