LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Alexis Rienks will begin her sophomore campaign on the New Mexico State women’s soccer team in about three weeks with some hardware already around her neck and as part of a national champion club team.
The defender from Lincoln, Neb., was part of Nebraska’s Gretna Prima Green under-19 club team that won a national title on Saturday at the 2015 United States Youth Soccer National Championships in Tulsa, Okla. It was the first-ever US Youth Soccer national championship for the state of Nebraska, at any age group.
“Rienks is not only a phenomenal player, but a phenomenal person,” said Aggie head coach Freddy Delgado. “We always knew she had greatness like this in her, and to see that come to fruition by winning a national championship is just very exciting, not only for her and us, but for all of Aggie Nation.”
Rienks and Gretna Prima had to first win their state tournament in Nebraska and one of four regional tournaments to reach the national tournament, which consisted four teams, the champions from each region.
The four teams played each other in pool play with the top two teams advancing to the championship match. Gretna Prima easily won its first two pool matches, 2-0 over Florida’s Tampa Bay United Premier team and 3-0 over Pennsylvania’s Beadling SC Thunder team, to guarantee itself a spot in the championship match with one pool match left to play.
Rienks and her squad proceeded to lose that final pool match to FC Nova Nationals from Idaho, 2-1. Perhaps because it was already looking forward to the title match, Gretna Prima found itself down 2-0 within the first 12 minutes. Gretna Prima would score a goal early in half number two, but could get no closer.
Still, Rienks and Gretna Prima finished atop the group with six points followed closely by FC Nova with five, setting up a rematch for the national crown. Saturday’s championship match would go scoreless through regulation time and overtime, meaning penalty kicks would determine the United States under-19 champion. Gretna Prima would get its revenge and win a national championship after outscoring FC Nova 4-1 during the penalty kicks.
“It’s amazing to know that I’m a part of the best team in the country in our age group,” Rienks said. “Playing against some of the best teams in the country and some of the best players in the country this summer is only going to get my level of play higher for this fall and put me where I need to be to help our NM State team.”
Rienks made 19 starts and played in all 22 games last season as a freshman at NM State. She logged in the third-most minutes played for the Aggies and at the conclusion of the season was honored on the Academic All-Western Athletic Conference Freshman/Transfer team.
Although barely a sophomore, Rienks will be counted on by coach Delgado as a leader on a very young NM State squad that only fields six upperclassmen and has 16 freshmen on the 26-player roster.
“She’s (Rienks) played at the highest level, so now she’s going to be one of the players that we’re really going to rely on and count on in crunch time,” Delgado said. “She’s dealt with some of the most intense, nail-biting games for two years at a very high level, so she’ll be able to use that here throughout the season.”
Rienks and the rest of her Aggie teammates begin the 2015 schedule with an exhibition match versus Pima Community College on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Soccer Athletic Complex, followed by a home match on Sunday, Aug. 23, against Eastern Washington to begin the regular season. For ticket information call the NM State Ticket Office at 575-646-1420 or visit the Ticketmaster website at www.ticketmaster.com.
Each summer, the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series crowns the boys and girls National Champion in seven age groups (Under-13 through Under-19). The finals are a culmination of a yearlong series of competitions at the state and regional levels which provide approximately 185,000 players on over 10,000 teams from 55 US Youth Soccer State Associations the opportunity to showcase their soccer skills against the best competition in the nation.