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Locals gear up for Rogue Memorial Challenge

A regional soccer tournament will be in the spotlight this weekend, and Rogue Valley players wouldn’t have it any other way.

The sixth annual Rogue Memorial Challenge will offer a chance for seniors like St. Mary’s Sara Klott to put on a show for friends and family, as well as for the hundreds of other spectators in attendance.

“You’re not traveling or in another town or state,” says Klott, who has signed to play at Lewis & Clark College. “It’s home field. It’s just really fun to have so many people come out and support you.”

The tournament, which runs Saturday through Monday, is one of the largest in the region, featuring 165 teams ranging from the U10 to U19 levels. Clubs from Oregon, California, Nevada and Washington are registered, including 65 from the Rogue Valley. It is hosted by the Rogue Valley Timbers.

Matches will be played at U.S. Cellular Community Park, North Medford High, South Medford High, Fichtner-Mainwaring Park and Jefferson Elementary.

Teams are guaranteed four matches, with medals given for first through third places.

“We’re two shy of our high (for number of team entrants), and really right around our capacity,” tournament director Kevin Primerano says. “The distribution of teams is fantastic. Having out-of-area teams is great for hotels and local businesses in the community.”

Many squads, including the U19 girls Rogue Valley Timbers 99G Red team, are returning to defend a crown.

The U19 girls field features 10 Oregon squads: Basin United G00 Crazy Cleats, Basin United G99, Capital FC Timbers Crush, Cascade Rush Elites, OFA 00G Scatter, RVT 00G Black, RVT 99G Red, SOSA Pirates G99, TFA Willamette Southside and Umpqua United Soccer Club 99G. California is represented by NCU Elite G99 and North State Soccer Missfits Renegades 00 and Nevada’s Spanish Springs SC Lady Jaguars 00 rounds out the field.

Action in the five-team Cascade girls U19 division opens at 9:20 a.m. on Saturday with RVT 99G Red taking on Missfits Renegades 00 and Basin United G99 playing OFA 00G Scatter at U.S. Cellular Fields 10 and 13, respectively.

The U19 Cascade girls championship is at 12:30 p.m. on Monday at U.S. Cellular Field 10.

Klott and 99G Red teammate Courtney Herick are looking to make a few more memories before heading off to college. Herick, a South Medford senior midfielder, has committed to Oregon Tech.

“I just think it is a really special tournament,” says Herick, who has played in the Challenge since 2010. “The community can come out and we get a lot of students come watch our games, too. ... It’s always a really competitive tournament.”

Their coach, Primerano, appreciates their all-league talent.

“Courtney is the kind of kid who’ll do the quiet things behind the scenes to help the team,” he says. “She’s a strong player, a stronger leader, and she really keeps the group together. Sara is a ball of energy. She’s a kid who is incredibly committed to the game. She’s always out on the field working.”

The 99G Red club went undefeated during the OYSA regular season before falling in the State Cup semifinals.

“We’re looking to end the year on a high note, defend our title and protect our house,” Primerano says.

Klott, like many others, brings plenty of experience to the table.

“I’ve been playing in (the Rogue Memorial Challenge) since I was 10 or 11,” the 18-year-old says.

The U19 boys field includes six Oregon squads — Basin United B99 Pumas, Cascade Rush Steelheaders B00, Medford United Futbol Club Galaxy B99, OFA 99B Azul, RVT 99B Red and Umpqua United Soccer Club 99B — and four California clubs: MSYSL MS United B99, NCU Manchester United B99, North State Soccer Kaos Rampage 00 and Galt FC United B99.

The five-team U19 Cascade division kicks off Saturday when RVT 99B Red plays Galaxy B99 at 8 a.m. on U.S. Cellular Field 10. The Cascade final is set for 11 a.m. Monday at U.S. Cellular Field 10.

Greg Millick, who coaches the 99B Red squad, says the Challenge brings out the best in everyone.

“It gets guys fired up,” he says. “It’s our hometown tournament. You always want to win those.”

Last year, RVT 98B Adrenaline secured the U19 Cascade championship.

The U19 level also has a Siskiyou division featuring five teams.

Saturday action wraps up with the annual Goalie Wars event and presentation of the Shelley Green Award beginning at 8 p.m. at North Medford High. The goalkeeper competition showcases the skills of the tournament’s top goalies and scorers, and the Green award honors a local U14 boys and girls player for their dedication to soccer.

Kendal James, a senior goalkeeper at North Medford who has verbally committed to Southern Oregon University, has won three Goalie Wars titles under the Saturday night bright lights. It’s just one thing about the Rogue Memorial Challenge that he’s grown to cherish over the years.

“I love this tournament,” he says. “It’s been a huge part of soccer for me.”

Reach writer Dan Jones at dljcards@gmail.com

South Medford High Courtney Herick attempts to box out North Medford’s Rylee Karrick during the match at South Medford High on Saturday.(PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)