ADAMS TWP — Dane Beller admits getting a break from cold temperatures for a few days doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
But his upcoming trip to Florida will offer the Mars High sophomore much more than that.
A forward, Beller will be one of 18 boys soccer players representing the East Region at a U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program tournament Dec. 18-22 in Bradenton.
While there, he will be involved in games against top players from the other three regions across the United States in the ages 15-16 division.
In a press release, East Region Administrator Katia Sarokon put the achievement into perspective:
“These are the top 72 players in the country in their age group. ... The educational and athletic opportunity presented help a player grow and mature in the sport and in life.”
Beller is eager to show what he’s got on the pitch.
“I am looking to get on the radar of colleges,” he said. “There will be a bunch of college coaches and my goal is to perform as well as I can and get my name out there.”
The East Region includes players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware Virginia and the New England states. Only two other players from Pennsylvania made the team — Nick Graeca from DuBois Central Catholic and Garrett Callenberger from State College High School.
Beller first made the cut for the PA West state team. After playing in a few tournaments for that squad, he was selected to take part in a camp last summer at Kutztown University that involved over 150 players on 11 teams. From there, he survived a cut that trimmed the field down to 33, then the final 18. He was notified on the last day of the event that he had been chosen for the regional team.
“I was so excited,” Beller exclaimed. “I didn’t even know that level existed until playing for ODP last year.”
In 2017, Beller’s exposure was limited to playing for the state team, but his rise to the regional squad falls in line with the improvement he has displayed for Mars’ varsity team.
He laid a good foundation as a freshman, scoring 12 goals and impressing Planets’ coach Chris Knauff.
“We tried not to push him immediately last year, but he worked his way into the lineup and started a few games,” Knauff said. “He turned in a very impressive freshman season.”
“It took me a few games to get used to playing with older kids,” said Beller, who returned to tally 18 goals and 15 assists this fall, helping the Planets to a section title and overall record of 18-3-1. “I contributed more this year and I think a lot of it was due to the experience I got as a freshman.”