B'ville soccer player aims high

A passion and talent for soccer has sent Jackie Firenze to Ireland.

After trying out and being selected at the state, regional then national level, the 14-year-old Durgee student traveled to Ireland this week to participate in the United States Olympic Development Program, which is designed to identify and advance talented and passionate youth players and develop U.S. Olympic soccer teams. There, Jackie will play with the U.S. Olympic Development Region I Team against two Irish youth National Teams in Dublin and several Premier Soccer clubs in Ireland.

"I am so excited and so honored to have been selected to the team and to go to Ireland," she said. "It is a great experience to play with talented players from all over the country. It has showed me that I need to keep working real hard because there are a lot of very, very good soccer players out there."

As a center midfielder, Jackie is a member of both the Baldwinsville Varsity Girls Soccer team, which she made as an eighth-grader last year, and the Empire United Soccer Academy (formerly the Syracuse Football Club). This is her third year as a member of the ODP Region I team, which allows her to reconnect with old teammates.

"A couple of the girls going I met at regional ODP camp last year, and some of us went to California together last summer at a national training camp."

Jackie said her passion and influence lies both with her parents, who introduced the young prot (c)g (c) to soccer at 4-years-old, and the many coaches who have helped train her throughout the years.

"My parents started me young. I became passionate about soccer as soon as I got to play. It is a fast paced game, and its physical and the rules are the same for boys and girls," she said.

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