LAKEWOOD RANCH — As the sun began to cast a radiant orange glow over the horizon Monday evening, sixth-graders Kennedy McCarthy and Lindsay Leskinen zigzagged across the field kicking soccer balls back and forth.
McCarthy, 12, Leskinen, 11, and the rest of their Braden River Soccer Club U12 teammates darted in and out of the shadows, completing a series of soccer drills designed to further improve their passing, shooting and defensive skills.
The girls have spent weeks perfecting their game, and now, McCarthy and Leskinen are hoping their newfound skills will propel them to their fourth-consecutive Halloween Havoc Tournament title.
On Oct. 16-18, the Braden River Soccer Club will host its seventh annual Halloween Havoc Tournament, which will feature more than 60 teams, ranging in age from U9 to U15, from across the state.
“I like the Halloween Havoc tournament because it’s on our home fields, and it feels good to host a tournament,” said Leskinen, who plays sweeper and defense for the Rage.
The three-day tournament will feature 15 of Braden River’s competitive boys and girls teams. The winners of the tournament will be determined based on a point system in which teams can earn points for wins, ties and shutouts, among other scenarios.
In addition to soccer, players and spectators will also be able to experience the thrilling Braden River Soccer Club haunted house. The haunted house, designed and built by some of the club’s players, will be open to everyone, including the general public from 6-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Admission for the haunted house will be $1 per trip through or $3 for an event pass, which will allow unlimited access.
“We hope that every team takes away memories of a lifetime,” Braden River Soccer Club President Brenden Moriarty said. “While we are a competitive tournament, we strive to make (sure) the primary purpose of the tournament is fun.
“It is our hope that each team takes the opportunity to make this gathering a social time for the kids where they can meet new people, make new friends, and have a great time together,” he added.
Last year, Braden River’s U9 boys black and orange, U10 boys black, U13 boys black and U11 girls teams all captured Halloween Havoc titles.
Following their victory, the teams huddled together in front of the Halloween inspired goals to get their picture taken and celebrate their tournament win. Now the Rage’s U12 team is hoping to add another championship picture to its collection.
“We’re playing on our fields, so you almost feel like you have to win because you’re on your home field,” said McCarthy, who plays left forward for Braden River’s U12 girls team.
McCarthy and Leskinen made their first appearance in the tournament three years ago while playing on Braden River’s U9 team. The Rage defeated Valrico 3-2.
“We didn’t know what it was going to be like, and the first time you win a tournament that you’ve never been in is the best,” Leskinen said.
The following year, the girls shut out Brandon’s U10 team 1-0 for their second consecutive title.
“I enjoyed our second Halloween Havoc tournament the best because there was more competition, so we were able to get more practice out of it,” McCarthy said.
Last year, Braden River’s U11 team defeated Lakeland 2-0. Now the three-time defending champion U12 girls are eager to take the field to bring home another Halloween Havoc Tournament title.
“I just enjoy playing,” McCarthy said. “I like to win. I like beating other teams.”
The Halloween Havoc Tournament was created seven years ago as a way for Braden River Soccer Club’s teams to compete against some of the top ranked teams in the state, allowing the teams to gain experience and giving exposure to an otherwise relatively new soccer club.
For more information on the Braden River Soccer Club’s Halloween Havoc Tournament visit the club’s Web site at www.bradenriversoccer.org.
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
Halloween Havoc Tournament
WHEN: Pool play begins Oct. 16. All championship matches scheduled for Oct. 18.
WHERE: the Braden River Soccer Club fields, 5490 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.