FAIRBANKS—On Wednesday, Braeden Hoppough was making tracks in the snow in Fairbanks. Today, he will be making moves on a grass field in Bradenton, Fla., for the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Boys Olympic Development Program 1997 Inter-Regional Event.
The 15-year-old Lathrop High School sophomore is the only Alaskan among 18 players on the Region IV, or West, team, which plays against East, Midwest and South regional squads in the tournament that runs through Sunday at the IMG Academy.
“I’m just looking forward to gaining more knowledge of the game, and I’m looking forward to playing with the elite guys of the West Coast” Hoppough, who also plays for the Alaska Rush Nike club program, said during a telephone interview Wednesday night.
It’s the second time in three years that the 5-foot-8, 160-pound center back will represent his region at a competition in Florida. In November 2010, when he was an eighth-grade student at Tanana Middle School, Hoppough played in the Thanksgiving Inter-Regional Event at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
“This will better me as a soccer player,” Hoppough said of the Bradenton tournament, “and I’ll know what to expect every time I play at a high level of play that is different than what is up here in Alaska.”
“The play is much faster, there’s fewer touches on the ball and there’s a lot of movement off of the ball,” Hoppough said of the competition he anticipates in Florida. “The pressure is going to be high because of the speed of the play.”
Hoppough, though, had to go through Alaska to get back to Florida.
Hoppough participated in a USYSA Alaska Olympic Development Program state tryout in Fairbanks in August 2011.
He learned that October that he made the state ODP boys 1997 team, and last spring, he was invited to the ODP Region IV training camp in McMinnville, Ore., in July.
In late July, he advanced from Oregon to the Region IV pool in Ontario, Calif., being among 36 players who were vying for spots on the 18-player roster for Bradenton tournament.
He was on his way to Lathrop when he received a text from a Region IV teammate from Arizona, who had made the roster. Hoppough checked his email and saw a notification from Region IV officials that he was on the team, too.
“I was sitting at a lunch table at school when I looked at my email and I started kind of yelling inside. I was trying to hide my feelings because I didn’t want to be too loud,” Hoppough recalled.
He couldn’t hide his emotions for long.
“It was exciting. I was really stoked to get home and tell my parents right away,” Hoppough said, who also tried out for the 2011 Region IV team but didn’t make it.
Hoppough will be exposed to college coaches during the Bradenton competition.
“It’s a showcase tournament and I’m excited to play and know that I’ll have people’s eyes watching me,” he said.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.